Elevated UV-B radiation (UV-B) has been previously reported to affect plant development, physiology, and promote the biosynthesis of UV-absorbing compounds. Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum
L.) is an aromatic herb, widely cultivated worldwide for its use in the food, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics industry. This species exhibits high diversity among different ecotypes based on their geographical locations. There has been little research on intra-specific photosynthetic and metabolic differences in UV-B tolerance across ecotypes from different geographical areas. This study evaluated the protection responses to high UV-B radiation of nine O. basilicum
accessions with different geographic origins. Specifically, the changes in chlorophyll a
fluorescence parameters and the leaf rosmarinic acid (RA) compound were assessed using an “in vivo-vitro system” in a closed-type plant production system. Our results revealed a significant variation in UV-B protection mechanisms among accessions when plants were treated with high UV-B doses. The accumulation of RA increased significantly by UV-B light treatment in OCI142, OCI148, OCI30, OCI160, and OCI102, with the highest concentration measured in OCI160 plants. This ecotype showed the highest value of the Fv/Fm ratio, 0.70, after 48 h. Recovery of leaf functionality was more rapid in OCI160 than in other sweet basil accessions, which may indicate better photosynthetic capacity associated with enhanced biosynthesis of UV absorbing compounds. This study shows that the biosynthesis of the UV-absorbing compound (RA) represents an effective mechanism to reduce the photoinhibitory and photooxidative damage caused by high UV stress.
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