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Metabolic adjustment and regulation of gene expression are essential for increased resistance to severe water deficit and resilience post-stress in soybean.
Soybean is the main oilseed crop grown in the world; however, drought stress affects its growth and physiology, reducing its yield. The objective of this study was to characterize the physiological, metabolic, and genetic aspects that determine differential resistance to water deficit in soybean genotypes.

Three soybean genotypes were used in this study, two lineages (L11644 and L13241), and one cultivar (EMBRAPA 48-C48). Plants were grown in pots containing 8 kg of a mixture of soil and sand (2:1) in a greenhouse under sunlight. Soil moisture in the pots was maintained at field capacity until the plants reached the stage of development V4 (third fully expanded leaf). At this time, plants were subjected to three water treatments: Well-Watered (WW) (plants kept under daily irrigation); Water Deficit (WD) (withholding irrigation until plants reached the leaf water potential at predawn of -1.5 ± 0.2 MPa); Rewatered (RW) (plants rehydrated for three days after reached the water deficit). The WW and WD water treatments were evaluated on the eighth day for genotypes L11644 and C48, and on the tenth day for L13241, after interruption of irrigation. For the three genotypes, the treatment RW was evaluated after three days of resumption of irrigation. Physiological, metabolic and gene expression analyses were performed.

Water deficit inhibited growth and gas exchange in all genotypes. The accumulation of osmolytes and the concentrations of chlorophylls and abscisic acid (ABA) were higher in L13241 under stress. The metabolic adjustment of lineages in response to WD occurred in order to accumulate amino acids, carbohydrates, and polyamines in leaves. The expression of genes involved in drought resistance responses was more strongly induced in L13241. In general, rehydration provided recovery of plants to similar conditions of control treatment. Although the C48 and L11644 genotypes have shown some tolerance and resilience responses to severe water deficit, greater efficiency was observed in the L13241 genotype through adjustments in morphological, physiological, genetic and metabolic characteristics that are combined in the same plant. This study contributes to the advancement in the knowledge about the resistance to drought in cultivated plants and provides bases for the genetic improvement of the soybean culture.
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