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Revista Chapingo. Serie horticultura

versión On-line ISSN 2007-4034versión impresa ISSN 1027-152X

Rev. Chapingo Ser.Hortic vol.22 no.2 Chapingo may./ago. 2016 

Scientific article

Effect of iodine application on antioxidants in tomato seedlings

Julia Medrano-Macías1 

Paola Leija-Martínez2 

Antonio Juárez-Maldonado3 

Alejandra Rocha-Estrada1 

Adalberto Benavides-Mendoza2  * 

1Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, Facultad de Ciencias Biológicas. Av. Manuel L. Barragán, Ciudad Universitaria, San Nicolás de los Garza, Nuevo León, MÉXICO.

2Universidad Autónoma Agraria Antonio Narro, Departamento de Horticultura. Calzada Antonio Narro núm. 1923, Buenavista, Saltillo, Coahuila, C. P. 25315, MÉXICO

3Universidad Autónoma Agraria Antonio Narro, Departamento de Botánica. Calzada Antonio Narro núm. 1923, Buenavista, Saltillo, Coahuila, C. P. 25315, MÉXICO.


Iodine is a beneficial micronutrient, but its metabolic function is still unknown. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of iodine application on biomass and antioxidant concentration in tomato seedlings. Iodine was applied in the form of iodide (I-) and potassium iodate ( IO3-), at concentrations of 1 μM daily and 100 μM biweekly, directly to the substrate or by foliar application to tomato var. Río Grande seedlings under greenhouse conditions. The effect of iodine on enzymatic antioxidants (superoxide dismutase, catalase, ascorbate peroxidase, and glutathione peroxidase), as well as the concentration of non-enzymatic antioxidants (ascorbate, glutathione, and total phenols) was analyzed. No treatment with I- or IO3- had a negative effect on seedling biomass. In addition, the biweekly I- treatments both by foliar and substrate application, as well as the daily IO3- and I- treatments via foliar application showed a 54 to 86 % decrease in superoxide dismutase enzymatic activity, without showing changes in the other enzymes. On the other hand, in both cases with daily I- foliar application, the non-enzymatic antioxidant concentrations for ascorbate and glutathione increased by 22 and 85 %, respectively. Phenolic compounds showed no changes in the different treatments.

Keywords: biofortification; oxidative stress; enzymes; ascorbate; glutathione


El yodo es un micronutriente benéfico; sin embargo, aún se desconoce su función metabólica. El objetivo de este trabajo fue evaluar el efecto de la aplicación de yodo sobre la biomasa y la concentración de antioxidantes en plántulas de jitomate. Se hicieron aplicaciones de yodo en forma de yoduro (I-) y yodato de potasio (IO3-), a concentraciones de 1 μM diariamente y 100 μM cada dos semanas, directo al sustrato o por aspersión foliar a plántulas de jitomate var. Río Grande, bajo condiciones de invernadero. Se analizó el efecto del yodo sobre los antioxidantes enzimáticos: superóxido dismutasa, catalasa, ascorbato peroxidasa y glutatión peroxidasa, así como la concentración de antioxidantes no enzimáticos: ascorbato, glutatión y fenoles totales. Ningún tratamiento con I- o IO3- tuvo efecto negativo sobre la biomasa de las plántulas. Además, se encontró que los tratamientos de I- aplicado cada dos semanas, tanto vía foliar como al sustrato, así como IO3- y I- empleados vía foliar diariamente, mostraron disminución de 54 al 86 % en la actividad enzimática de superóxido dismutasa, sin evidenciar cambios en las enzimas restantes. Por otro lado, en la concentración de los antioxidantes no enzimáticos, el ascorbato y glutatión presentaron un aumento de 22 y 85 %, respectivamente; en ambos casos con aplicación diaria de I- por aspersión foliar. Los fenoles no mostraron cambios en los diferentes tratamientos.

Palabras clave: biofortificación; estrés oxidativo; enzimas; ascorbato; glutatión


Although a metabolic function of iodine in terrestrial plants is not known (Kabata-Pendias, 2011; Mengel, Kosegarten, Kirkby, & Appel, 2001), its value as a beneficial micronutrient is well established (Borst-Pauwles, 1961). Various studies indicate that iodine increases the presence of antioxidants in plants, providing greater tolerance to some adverse factors (Blasco et al., 2008; Blasco et al., 2011; Gupta, Shukla-Bajpai, Singh-Majumdar, & Mishra, 2015; International Council for Control of iodine deficiency disorders [ICCIDD], 2009; Leyva et al., 2011). However, there is evidence of toxicity in plants as a result of the application of this element above certain concentration levels (Caffagni et al., 2011; Landini, Gonzali, & Perata, 2011; Mackowiak & Grossl, 1999; Zhu, Huang, Hu, & Liu, 2003). Other studies also indicate that food of plant origin is normally low in iodine concentration, hence, the need to better understand its effects in order to obtain biofortified plants with this element (White & Broadway, 2009).

There is little information about the form in which iodine is accumulated and metabolized in terrestrial species (Weng et al., 2008a); however, the process is better understood in marine species such as Laminaria digitata (kelp). This species is reported as an iodine accumulator, reaching up to 1% of its dry weight (Colin et al., 2003). It has been reported that the induction of cellular accumulation or volatilization of this element into the atmosphere is related to oxidative stress levels. In other words, under high production conditions of reactive oxygen species (ROS), this element is volatilized, while under low ROS concentration, iodine is stored for later use in case of increased stress (Küpper et al., 2008).

Venturi (2011) hypothesized that iodine was one of the first antioxidants used by photosynthetic organisms. Similarly, la Barre, Potin, Leblanc, and Delage (2010) suggested that iodine is used by marine algae as an antioxidant during oxidative stress events, a fact that could be similar in terrestrial plants. However, as far as it is known, this aspect of iodine use has not been investigated or applied in agriculture.

The aim of the present study was to evaluate the effect of applying iodine in its iodide (I-) and potassium iodate (IO3-) forms on biomass and antioxidant concentration in tomato seedlings.

Materials and methods

Plant material and growth conditions

The experiment was conducted in a greenhouse at Antonio Narro Agrarian Autonomous University, Saltillo,Coahuila, Mexico, located at 25° 21’ 12.8’’ NL and 101° 01° 51.9’’ WL. In 2013, tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) var. Rio Grande seeds were sowed in 355-mL polystyrene containers. Peat moss mixed with perlite at a 5:1 ratio was used as substrate. The average greenhouse temperature was 20.7 °C, with 741 W∙m-2 maximum radiation and 62.8 % relative humidity. Manual irrigation was carried out daily, applying 50 mL of 20 % Steiner solution (1961). The EC and pH of the nutrient solution were 1.0 dS∙m-1 and 6.5, respectively. General management and production practices were carried out according to the indications established by Villasanti (2013).

The treatments consisted in the direct application of Iodine (I-) to the substrate (S) or by foliar application (F) at a concentration of 1 μM daily (D) or 100 μM biweekly (15D). The same design was used for the potassium iodate (IO3-) treatments. The application began four weeks after sowing (WAS), when the seedlings had developed four leaves, and continued until sampling (eight WAS).

Only nutrient solution was applied to the substrate containing the control seedlings.


At eight WAS, sampling was conducted under a completely randomized experimental design. Three complete seedlings per treatment were taken to determine biomass and another three for leaf quantification of enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidants. The experimental unit was one seedling. Analysis of variance (P ≤ 0.05), using the statistical software InfoStat (2008), and Tukey’s range test (P ≤ 0.05) were performed with the obtained data.

Seedling analysis

Seedlings intended for biomass quantification were dried in an oven, while the leaves for non-enzymatic and enzymatic antioxidant quantification were lyophilized.

Once the plant material was prepared, the following variables were obtained:

Biomass. Seedlings were partitioned in stem, root, and leaves, and weighed using an OHAUS® digital scale. Subsequently, they were placed in a drying oven at 60 °C until constant weight. The initial and final weight was expressed in grams.

The extraction of biomolecules was made through the lyophilized seedling leaves grounded using a mortar and pestle. First, 200 mg of ground tissue, 20 mg of polyvinyl pyrrolidone and 1.5 mL of 0.1 M phosphate buffer (pH 7-7.2) were placed in a centrifuge tube, and then subjected to sonification for 5 min. Subsequently, the homogenate was centrifuged at 12,500 rpm for 10 min at 4 °C. The supernatant was collected, filtered with a nylon membrane (Ramos et al., 2010) and diluted at a 1:15 ratio with phosphate buffer.

Superoxide dismutase (SOD). The activity of this enzyme from the biomolecules extract was quantified in a microplate reader using the SOD determination kit (SIGMA-ALDRICH, 2014). This method is based on quantifying by spectrophotometry; the conversion of WST (water soluble tetrazolium salt) to WST-formazan dye takes place upon oxidation by superoxide ions formed by the set of xanthine (XO)/xanthine oxidase (X). The inhibition in the oxidation of WST is attributed to the neutralization of superoxide radicals caused by SOD. The units were expressed as inhibition percentage.

Catalase (CAT). Catalase activity was quantified using spectrophotometry, which was measured in two reaction times: time 0 (T0) and time 1 (T1). The control reaction mixture was prepared with 0.1 mL biomolecules extract, 1 mL phosphate buffer (pH 7.2) and 0.4 mL 5 % H2SO4, while the T0 reaction mixture was prepared with 0.1 mL biomolecules extract and 1 mL 100 mM H2O2, after which 0.5 mL 5 % H2SO4 were immediately added. T1 was prepared in the same manner as T0, with the exception that 0.5 mL 5% H2SO4 were added after 1 min of reaction between the extract and the peroxide. The reaction was conducted under constant shaking at 20 °C. Finally, H2O2 consumption was read at 270 nm in the UV-VIS spectrum. The activity units (UI) were expressed in H2O2 mM per minute by total proteins (Cansev, Gulen, & Eris, 2011).

Ascorbate peroxidase (APX). First, 0.1 mL biomolecules extract, 0.5 mL ascorbate at a 10 mg∙L-1 concentration and 1 mL 100 mM H2O2 were added to a centrifuge tube at 22 °C (Nakano & Asada, 1987). After 1 min the reaction was terminated with 0.4 mL 5 % H2O2. The ascorbate consumption rate was quantified by spectrophotometry at 266 nm. The UI were expressed in mM ascorbate per minute by total proteins.

Glutathione peroxidase (GPX). This was measured using the method established by Xue, Hartikainen, and Piironen (2001), where H2O2 is used as substrate. First, 0.2 mL biomolecules extract, 0.4 mL of glutathione reduced to 0.1 M and 0.2 mL 0.067 M Na2HPO4 were placed in a test tube. This mixture was pre-heated in a water bath at 25 °C for 5 min, then 0.2 mL H2O2 (1.3 mM) were added to initiate the catalytic reaction. The reaction was conducted for 10 min and stopped by adding 1 mL of trichloro acetic acid (1 %); the mixture was placed in an ice bath for 30 min and then centrifuged for 10 min at 3,000 rpm. Then 0.48 mL were taken from the supernatant and placed in a test tube, to which 2.2 mL Na2HPO4 (0.32 M) and 0.32 mL of 1.0 mmol solution of 5,5-DiThiobis(2-NitroBenzoic acid) (DTNB) were added for color development. Absorbance was measured at a wavelength of 412 nm with a UV-VIS spectrophotometer. The UI were expressed in glutathione (mM) per minute by total proteins.

Glutathione (GSH). Glutathione was quantified following the spectrophotometric technique established by Xue et al. (2001), by the reaction with 5,5-DiThiobis(2- NitroBenzoic acid) (DTNB). First, 0.48 mL extract, 2.2 mL sodium phosphate dibasic (Na2HPO4 at 0.32 M) and 0.32 mL 1 mM DNTB dye were placed in a centrifuge tube. It was mixed and read in a UV-VIS spectrophotometer at 412 nm. The values were expressed in mg∙L-1.

Ascorbate (Asa). For ascorbate extraction, 200 mg lyophilized leaves were weighed and 1 mL of solution water:acetone 1:1 was added (Yu & Dahlgren, 2000). The mixture was vortexed for 30 s, then sonicated for 5 min and finally ultracentrifuged at 4 °C at 12,500 rpm for 10 min; the supernatant was removed in this process. Quantification was carried out using a Thermo Spectra system P4000® high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) instrument under the following conditions: 230 nm wavelength, NaH2PO4 mobile phase at 50 mM (pH 2.8), flow rate 1 mL·min-1 and an AQUASIL C-18 HPLC column was used at 60 °C. The results were expressed in mg∙L-1.

Total Phenols (Ft). Quantification was performed by UV-VIS spectrophotometry using extraction solution water:acetone 1:1 with Folin-Ciocalteu reagent. The concentration units were expressed in mg∙L-1 (Nsor- Atindana, Zhong, Mothibe, Bangoura, & Lagnika, 2012; Sultana, Anwar, & Ashraf, 2009).

Results and discussion

Below, results of evaluated variables are shown and discussed, posterior to the application of treatments.


In the present study, the daily treatments received a total of 30 μM iodine and the biweekly ones 300 μM. None of the treatments caused a reduction of biomass compared to the control. Otherwise, daily applications showed increased biomass (Table 1). Reduced plant biomass is one of the clearest indicators of stress damage (Blasco et al., 2008; Sairam, Rao, & Srivastava, 2002).

Table 1 Comparison of means of the response of the evaluated variables to the different iodine treatments in tomato seedlings. 

Treatment Biomass
(% inh.)
IO3- Foliar biweekly 1.03 bz 25.67 abc 9.7 10-7 a 5.2 10-6 a 5.1 10-5 a 7.36 cd 35.39 ab 8.38 a
IO3- Substrate biweekly 1.24 ab 40.91 ab 4.7 10-7 a 9.0 10-7 a 7.6 10-5 a 9.11 bc 22.79 ab 9.62 a
I- Foliar biweekly 1.40 ab 6.39 c 6.6 10-7 a 2.4 10-6 a 2.8 10-4 a 8.11 bcd 34.41 ab 7.42 a
I- Substrate biweekly 1.48 ab 17.77 bc 9.2 10-7 a 6.1 10-6 a 6.2 10-4 a 12.98 a 23.54 ab 6.13 a
IO3- Foliar daily 1.95 ab 20.86 bc 1.5 10-7 a 7.8 10-6 a 1.7 10-4 a 6.87 cd 30.59 ab 6.85 a
IO3- Substrate daily 2.25 a 24.53 abc 1.7 10-7 a 5.7 10-6 a 2.6 10-4 a 8.43 bcd 15.64 ab 7.23 a
I- Foliar daily 1.33 ab 19.4 bc 1 10-6 a 1.1 10-6 a 2.4 10-4 a 10.47 ab 41.69 a 8.61 a
I- Substrate daily 2.26 a 41.81 ab 2.5 10-6 a 4.8 10-6 a 2.8 10-4 a 5.85 d 28.16 ab 6.17 a
Control 0.93 b 45.45 a 1.5 10-6 a 5.3 10-6 a 8.2 10-5 a 5.65 d 18.71 b 6.2 a
Analysis of var. ( p value) >0.01** >0.01** 0.09 ns 0.28 ns 0.8 ns >0.01** >0.01** 0.28 ns

SOD = superoxide dismutase; CAT = catalase; APX = ascorbate peroxidase; GPX = glutathione peroxidase; GSH = glutathione; Asa = ascorbate; Ft = total phenols.

Significance levels are represented by P values (P > 0.05 = not significant (ns), P < 0.05 = *significant and P < 0.01 = ** highly significant).

ZWithin columns, means followed by the same letter are not statistically different (P ≥ 0.05). IO3- (iodate), I (iodide). Small UI values were recorded by the base 10 scientific notation.

Weng et al. (2008b) observed increased biomass in spinach grown hydroponically with I- and IO3- concentrations of up to 3.3 μM and 12.5 μM respectively, which were lower than those obtained in this research. For their part, Landini et al. (2011) used high I-concentrations ranging from 5,000 to 20,000 μM in tomato plants grown hydroponically and noted that, despite toxicity symptoms such as chlorosis and leaf tip burn, the plants survived and produced fruits; therefore, they concluded that tomato plants are resistant to high iodine concentrations. Similarly, Kiferle, Gonzali, Holwerda, Real-Ibaceta, and Perata (2013) carried out an experiment in tomato plants applying iodine to the soil on a weekly basis. They found that at concentrations of 1,000, 2,000 and 5,000 μM I-, and of 500, 1,000 and 2,000 μM IO3-, plant biomass did not decrease with respect to the control, with the exception of 5,000 μM I- applications.

Other crop species such as lettuce grown hydroponically showed higher susceptibility to the presence of iodine, with reduced biomass being reported when I- concentrations were equal to or higher than 40 μM, but without displaying any negative effects with the application of 240 μM IO3- (Blasco et al., 2008).

Superoxide dismutase

SOD enzymatic activity decreased in half of the treatments compared to the control plants. The treatments that showed such behavior were biweekly I- foliar application and I- applied to the substrate, as well as daily IO3- and I- foliar application (Table 1). These results are similar to those obtained in lettuce by Blasco et al. (2011) for treatments applied with 20, 40 and 80 μM I-, which showed reduced SOD activity compared to the control plants. However, the same authors found that IO3- at 40 μM presented increases in SOD enzymatic activity. Leyva et al. (2011) obtained increased enzymatic activity after applying 80 μM IO3-. Furthermore, Gupta et al. (2015) found that this same activity increased in treatments with 40 μM IO3-, but not with 20 or 80 μM.

Superoxide anion is usually the first free radical formed naturally in photosynthesis and respiration; therefore, SOD represents the primary control line against oxidative stress (Gill & Tuteja, 2010). However, in the present experiment the SOD activity of this enzyme was decreased. Although there are few reports in this regard about terrestrial plants, in marine plants it has been found that iodide is able to react quickly and directly with free radicals from biochemical energy systems, such as superoxide, singlet oxygen and even hydroxyl, at rates 12 to 500 times higher than ascorbate or glutathione (Küpper, et al, 2008; Luther, Wu, & Cullen, 1995). There is a possibility exist that the same could happen in the case of tomato plants, resulting in direct neutralization of free radicals, thus, causing decreased SOD activity.


In regard to catalase activity, no statistically significant differences were found between treated and control plants. This result differs to those obtained by other authors such as Blasco et al. (2011), who observed increased enzymatic activity at concentrations higher than 80 μM for both I- and IO3- treatments, finding severe toxicity damage and biomass reduction. Gupta et al. (2015) also reported increased catalase activity for IO3- treatments at 40 μM combined with 100 μM CdCl2, possibly due to stress induced by the heavy metal. The function of catalase is to reduce peroxide to oxygen and water to prevent the formation of OH- radical (Asada, 1999). It is likely that by decreasing SOD activity, H2O2 formation is also reduced while maintaining CAT activity at a basal level, which could explain the absence of differences.

Ascorbate peroxidase

Like CAT, APX showed no significant differences compared to control plants. This result contradicts those obtained in lettuce plants by Blasco et al. (2011), who observed increased APX activity after applying IO3- concentrations of 20, 40 and 80 μM, without biomass reduction.

Meanwhile, Gupta et al. (2015) reported increased APX activity after applying 20 and 40 μM IO3- to plants treated with CdCl2 at 100 μM. It is known that APX is involved in H2O2 detoxification, using ascorbate (AA) as the electron donor. In this study, the iodine treatments apparently did not alter the basal status of this enzyme, possibly due to the previously explained effect whereby SOD decreases and hence reduces H2O2 production.

Glutathione peroxidase

Similar to what was described above for APX and catalase, GPX activity showed no differences among treatments. The absence of differences among treatments is probably because this enzyme also degrades H2O2, which explains the decrease in SOD activity.


In the GSH results, an increase in two of the four biweekly IO3- and I- treatments applied to the substrate were found, while the effect was considerable in the daily I- foliar application treatment, which coincides with the decrease in SOD activity.

Although no information was found about the relationship between iodine and glutathione in tomato plants, Leyva et al. (2011) obtained an increased glutathione concentration after applying IO3- at 20 μM in lettuce plants grown hydroponically. The response, however, was different in the study carried out by Blasco et al. (2011), who found decreased glutathione concentration when IO3- was applied at 80 μM in lettuce plants. This indicates that the influence of iodine varies according to the plant species, its chemical forms and applied concentrations, among other factors.


Ascorbate concentration increased after daily foliar I- application, the same treatment in which SOD activity decreased and GSH concentration increased (Table 1). Meanwhile, Weng et al. (2008b) reported an increase in ascorbate concentration in spinach grown hydroponically by adding I- at 0.33 and 0.66 μM, but the same did not happen for IO3- . On the other hand, Blasco et al. (2011) reported the highest ascorbate concentration in lettuce plants for I- treatments at 80 μM, the same concentration at which the plants showed a severe biomass decrease. Also, Leyva et al. (2011) found increased ascorbate in lettuce plants by applying IO3- at concentrations below 40 μM. The discrepancy in the results may be explained by the use of different plant species and chemical forms of iodine.

Total phenols

Total phenols showed no significant statistical differences between treatments and control. Furthermore, no other studies in which these compounds were quantified after applying iodine were found. However, part of the reason why iodine did not change the basal status of these compounds may be related to the fact that phenol accumulation is induced in response to increased H2O2 resulting from oxidative stress (Sakihama, Cohen, Grace, & Yamasaki, 2002). Once again, the reduced SOD activity probably resulted from an antioxidant iodine effect, which could have been the reason for the absence of differences among treatments.


The daily I- and IO3- treatments applied to the substrate increased tomato seedling biomass, while the rest did not produce negative effects on biomass. On the other hand, the biweekly I- foliar and substrate applications, the biweekly IO3- foliar application and the daily I- foliar application treatment showed a decrease in SOD activity compared to the control plants.

No statistically significant differences were found between iodine and control treatments in terms of catalase, ascorbate peroxidase and glutathione peroxidase activities, and phenol concentration.

Biweekly I- foliar and IO3- substrate treatments are recommended as part of tomato seedling production management because they increase glutathione antioxidant concentration. Similarly, daily I- foliar application is recommended as part of tomato seedling management, because it increases the amount of glutathione and ascorbate antioxidants.


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Received: December 05, 2015; Accepted: July 11, 2016, tel.: 844 176 70 62 (*Corresponding author)

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