International Journal of Molecular Sciences (Oct 2021)

Melatonin Confers Plant Cadmium Tolerance: An Update

  • Quan Gu,
  • Chuyan Wang,
  • Qingqing Xiao,
  • Ziping Chen,
  • Yi Han

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 22, no. 21
p. 11704


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Cadmium (Cd) is one of the most injurious heavy metals, affecting plant growth and development. Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine) was discovered in plants in 1995, and it is since known to act as a multifunctional molecule to alleviate abiotic and biotic stresses, especially Cd stress. Endogenously triggered or exogenously applied melatonin re-establishes the redox homeostasis by the improvement of the antioxidant defense system. It can also affect the Cd transportation and sequestration by regulating the transcripts of genes related to the major metal transport system, as well as the increase in glutathione (GSH) and phytochelatins (PCs). Melatonin activates several downstream signals, such as nitric oxide (NO), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), and salicylic acid (SA), which are required for plant Cd tolerance. Similar to the physiological functions of NO, hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is also involved in the abiotic stress-related processes in plants. Moreover, exogenous melatonin induces H2S generation in plants under salinity or heat stress. However, the involvement of H2S action in melatonin-induced Cd tolerance is still largely unknown. In this review, we summarize the progresses in various physiological and molecular mechanisms regulated by melatonin in plants under Cd stress. The complex interactions between melatonin and H2S in acquisition of Cd stress tolerance are also discussed.