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Keywords:

  • antioxidant;
  • ascorbate;
  • ascorbate peroxidase;
  • Glycine max (soybean);
  • lipid peroxides;
  • nitrogen fixation;
  • stem infusion

Numerous biochemical and physiological studies have demonstrated the importance of ascorbate (ASC) as a reducing agent and antioxidant in higher plant metabolism. Of special note is the capacity of ASC to eliminate damaging activated oxygen species (AOS) including O2−· and H2O2. N2-fixing legume nodules are especially vulnerable to oxidative damage because they contain large amounts of leghaemoglobin which produces AOS through spontaneous autoxidation; thus, ASC and other components of the ascorbate–reduced glutathione (ASC–GSH) pathway are critical antioxidants in nodules. In order to establish a meaningful correlation between concentrations of ASC and capacity for N2 fixation in legume root nodules, soybean (Glycine max) plants were treated with excess ASC via exogenous irrigation or continuous intravascular infusion through needles inserted directly into plant stems. Treatment with ASC led to striking increases in nitrogenase activity (acetylene reduction), nodule leghaemoglobin content, and activity of ASC peroxidase, a key antioxidant enzyme. The concentration of lipid peroxides, which are indicators of oxidative damage and onset of senescence, was decreased in ASC-treated nodules. These results support the conclusion that ASC is critical for N2 fixation and that elevated ASC allows nodules to maintain a greater capacity to fix N2 over longer periods.