Abstract The aim of the present study was to explore the effect of exogenous application of castasterone (CS) on physiologic and biochemical responses in Brassica juncea seedlings under copper (Cu) stress. Seeds were pre-soaked in different concentrations of CS and grown for 7 days under various levels of Cu. The exposure of B. juncea to higher levels of Cu led to decrease of morphologic parameters, with partial recovery of length and fresh weight in the CS pre-treated seedlings. Metal content was high in both roots and shoots under Cu exposure while the CS pre-treatment reduced the metal uptake. Accumulation of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and superoxide anion radical (O2 -) were chosen as stress biomarker and higher levels of H2O2 (88.89%) and O2 - (62.11%) showed the oxidative stress in metal treated B. juncea seedlings, however, CS pre-treatment reduced ROS accumulation in Cu-exposed seedlings. The Cu exposures lead to enhance the plant's enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidant system. It was observed that enzymatic activities of ascorbate peroxidase (APOX), dehydroascorbate reductase (DHAR), and glutathione reductase (GR), glutathione perxoidase (GPOX) and gultrathione-s-transferase increased while activity of monodehydroascorbate reductase (MDHAR) decreased under Cu stress. The pre-treatment with CS positively affected the activities of enzymes. RT-PCR analysis showed that mRNA transcript levels were correlated with total enzymatic activity of DHAR, GR, GST and GSH. Increase in the gene expression of DHAR (1.85 folds), GR (3.24 folds), GST-1 (2.00 folds) and GSH-S (3.18 folds) was noticed with CS pre-treatment. Overall, the present study shows that Cu exposure induced severe oxidative stress in B. juncea plants and exogenous application of CS improved antioxidative defense system by modulating the ascorbate-glutathione cycle and amino acid metabolism. Highlights Cu toxicity induced the production of free radicals in Brassica juncea seedlings. Exogenous application of CS enhanced enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidants. The CS application also induced overexpression of DHAR, GR, GST-1 and GSH-S. Castasterone improved the tolerance of B. juncea plants towards copper stress.
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