Oxidative stress is a major source of damage of plants exposed to adverse environments. We examined the effect of exogenous melatonin (MT) in limiting of oxidative stress caused by methyl viologen (MV; paraquatin) in apple leaves (Malus domestica Borkh.). When detached leaves were pre-treated with melatonin, their level of stress tolerance increased. Under MV treatment, melatonin effectively alleviated the decrease in chlorophyll concentrations and maximum potential Photosystem II efficiency while also mitigating membrane damage and lipid peroxidation when compared with control leaves that were sprayed only with water prior to the stress experiment. The melatonin-treated leaves also showed higher activities and transcripts of antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase, peroxidase, and catalase. In addition, the expression of genes for those enzymes was upregulated. Melatonin-synthesis genes MdTDC1, MdT5H4, MdAANAT2, and MdASMT1 were also upregulated under oxidative stress in leaves but that expression was suppressed in response to 1 mM melatonin pretreatment during the MV treatments. Therefore, we conclude that exogenous melatonin mitigates the detrimental effects of oxidative stress, perhaps by slowing the decline in chlorophyll concentrations, moderating membrane damage and lipid peroxidation, increasing the activities of antioxidant enzymes, and changing the expression of genes for melatonin synthesis
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