Elevated CO2 and salinity are responsible for phenolics-enrichment in two differently pigmented lettuces


Both salt stress and high CO2 level, besides influencing secondary metabolism, can affect oxidative status of plants mainly acting in an opposite way with salinity provoking oxidative stress and elevated CO2 alleviating it. The aim of the present work was to study the changes in the composition of phenolic acids and flavonoids as well as in the antioxidant activity in two differently pigmented lettuce cvs (green or red leaf) when submitted to salinity (200 mM NaCl) or elevated CO2 (700 ppm) or to their combination in order to evaluate how a future global change can affect lettuce quality. Following treatments, the red cv. always maintained higher levels of antioxidant secondary metabolites as well as antioxidant activity, proving to be more responsive to altered environmental conditions than the green one. Overall, these results suggest that the application of moderate salinity or elevated CO2, alone or in combination, can induce the production of some phenolics that increase the health benefits of lettuce. In particular, moderate salinity was able to induce the synthesis of the flavonoids quercetin, quercetin-3-O-glucoside, quercetin-3-O-glucuronide and quercitrin. Phenolics-enrichment as well as a higher antioxidant capacity were also observed under high CO2 with the red lettuce accumulating cyanidin, free chlorogenic acid, conjugated caffeic and ferulic acid as well as quercetin, quercetin-3-O-glucoside, quercetin-3-O-glucuronide, luteolin-7-O-glucoside, rutin, quercitrin and kaempferol. When salinity was present in combination with elevated CO2, reduction in yield was prevented and a higher presence of phenolic compounds, in particular luteolin, was observed compared to salinity alone.

Plant physiology and biochemistry: PPB, (115), pp. 269–278, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.plaphy.2017.04.006