To determine if antioxidant responses to drought differ between C3 and C4 plants, we grew Sorghum bicolor (C4) and Helianthus annuus (C3) under either watered or dry conditions in a growth chamber. Levels of leaf enzymatic antioxidants (ascorbate peroxidase, catalase, guaiacol peroxidase, dehydroascorbate reductase, monodehydroascorbate reductase, glutathione reductase and superoxide dismutase), nonenzymatic antioxidants (ascorbate, glutathione and carotenoids) and stress parameters (Chl and malondialdehyde [MDA]) were determined. Under watered and drought conditions, Chl contents and leaf relative water contents (RWC) were higher in sorghum than in sunflower; however, MDA levels were higher in sunflower than in sorghum. Under watered conditions, inherent levels of antioxidants were not consistently higher or lower in sorghum than in sunflower. In response to drought, levels of antioxidants, Chl and MDA showed increase, decrease or remained unchanged depending on crop, duration of drought and kind of antioxidants. Duration of drought was divided arbitrarily into three stages. At an early stage of drought (watering had stopped for 3–4 d) when soil water content (WC) and leaf RWC had decreased only in sunflower, drought generally did not affect levels of antioxidants and stress parameters. At a middle stage of drought (watering had stopped for 5–6 d) when soil WC had decreased for both sorghum and sunflower but leaf WC and RWC had decreased only in sunflower, drought changed levels of some antioxidants in sunflower and sorghum. At a late stage of drought (watering had stopped for 7–8 d) when soil WC, leaf WC and RWC had decreased in sorghum and sunflower, most parameters studied were affected by drought. Because of the differential effect of drought, levels of antioxidants were not consistently higher or lower in sorghum than in sunflower under drought. These results show that, under both drought and watered conditions, sorghum does not have consistently higher or lower antioxidant levels than sunflower, and that antioxidant responses to drought differ in C3 and C4 plants.
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relative water content