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Papadopoulou S., Stefi A., Meletiou-Christou M.S., Christodoulakis N., Gkikas D., Rhizopoulou S. 2023. Structural and physiological traits of compound leaves of Ceratonia siliqua trees grown in urban and suburban ambient conditions. Plants 12(3), 514, https://doi.org/10.3390/plants12030514

Abstract: Ceratonia siliqua L. (carob tree) is an endemic plant to the eastern Mediterranean region. In the present study, anatomical and physiological traits of successively grown compound leaves (i.e., the first, third, fifth and seventh leaves) of C. siliqua were investigated in an attempt to evaluate their growth under urban and suburban environmental conditions. Chlorophyll and phenolic content, as well as the specific leaf area of the compound leaves were determined. Structural traits of leaflets (i.e., thickness of palisade and spongy parenchyma, abaxial and adaxial epidermis, as well as abaxial and adaxial periclinal wall) were also investigated in expanding and fully expanded leaflets. Fully expanded leaflets from urban sites exhibited increased thickness of the lamina and the palisade parenchyma, while the thickness of the spongy parenchyma was thicker in suburban specimens. The palisade tissue was less extended than the spongy tissue in expanding leaflets, while the opposite held true for the expanded leaflets. Moreover, the thickness of the adaxial and the abaxial epidermises, as well as the adaxial and abaxial periclinal wall were higher in suburban leaflets. The chlorophyll content increased concomitantly with the specific leaf area (SLA) of both expanding and expanded leaflets, and strong positive correlations were detected, while the phenolic content declined with the increased SLA of expanding and expanded leaflets. It is noteworthy that the SLA of expanding leaflets in the suburban site was comparable to the SLA of expanded leaflets experiencing air pollution in urban sites; the size and the mass of leaf blades of C. siliqua possess adaptive features to air pollution. These results, linked to the functional structure of expanding and expanded successive foliar tissues, provide valuable assessment information coordinated with an adaptive process and yield of carob trees exposed to the considered ambient conditions, which have not hitherto been published.

Trovato M., Brini F., Mseddi K., Rhizopoulou S., Jones M.A. 2023. A holistic and sustainable approach linked to drought tolerance of Mediterranean crops. Frontiers in Plant Science, Section Plant Abiotic Stress 14, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2023.1167376

Abstract: The rapid increase in average temperatures and the progressive reduction in rainfalls caused by climate change is reducing crop yields worldwide, particularly in regions with hot and semi-arid climates such as the Mediterranean area. In natural conditions, plants respond to environmental drought stress with diverse morphological, physiological, and biochemical adaptations in an attempt to escape, avoid, or tolerate drought stress. Among these adaptations to stress, the accumulation of abscisic acid (ABA) is of pivotal importance. Many biotechnological approaches to improve stress tolerance by increasing the exogenous or endogenous content of ABA have proved to be effective. In most cases the resultant drought tolerance is associated with low productivity incompatible with the requirements of modern agriculture. The on-going climate crisis has provoked the search for strategies to increase crop yield under warmer conditions. Several biotechnological strategies, such as the genetic improvement of crops or the generation of transgenic plants for genes involved in drought tolerance, have been attempted with unsatisfactory results suggesting the need for new approaches. Among these, the genetic modification of transcription factors or regulators of signaling cascades provide a promising alternative. To reconcile drought tolerance with crop yield, we propose mutagenesis of genes controlling key signaling components downstream of ABA accumulation in local landraces to modulate responses. We also discuss the advantages of tackling this challenge with a holistic approach involving different knowledge and perspectives, and the problem of distributing the selected lines at subsidized prices to guarantee their use by small family farms.