Can alternative metabolic pathways and shunts overcome salinity induced inhibition of central carbon metabolism in crops?

Ali Bandehagh, Nicolas Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


The annual cost of lost crop production from exposure to salinity has major impacts on food security in all parts of the world. Salinity stress disturbs energy metabolism and knowledge of the impacts on critical processes controlling plant energy production is key to successfully breeding salt tolerant crops. To date, little progress has been achieved using classic breeding approaches to develop salt tolerance. The hope of some salinity researchers is that through a better understanding of the metabolic responses and adaptation to salinity exposure, new breeding targets can be suggested to help develop salt tolerant crops. Plants sense and react to salinity through a complex system of sensors, receptor systems, transporters, signal transducers, and gene expression regulators in order to control the uptake of salts and to induce tolerant metabolism that jointly leads to changes in growth rate and biomass production. During this response, there must be a balance between supply of energy from mitochondria and chloroplasts and energy demands for water and ion transport, growth, and osmotic adjustment. The photosynthetic response to salinity has been thoroughly researched and generally we see a sharp drop in photosynthesis after exposure to salinity. However, less attention has been given to the effect of salt stress on plant mitochondrial respiration and the metabolic processes that influence respiratory rate. A further complication is the wide range of respiratory responses that have been observed in different plant species, which have included major and minor increases, decreases, and no change in respiratory rate after salt exposure. In this review, we begin by considering physiological and biochemical impacts of salinity on major crop plants. We then summarize and consider recent advances that have characterized changes in abundance of metabolites that are involved in respiratory pathways and their alternative routes and shunts in terms of energy metabolism in crop plants. We will consider the diverse molecular responses of cellular plant metabolism during salinity exposure and suggest how these metabolic responses might aid in salinity tolerance. Finally, we will consider how this commonality and diversity should influence how future research of the salinity responses of crops plants should proceed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1072
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2020


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