Salt stress and selenium are known to elicitate the production of plant secondary metabolites with antioxidant properties. On this basis, maize grains obtained from mother plants fertilized or not fertilized with selenium were sprouted at different levels of salinity (0, 25, and 50 mM NaCl) to evaluate the effects on the sprout yield, inorganic and organic Se species, minerals, and secondary metabolites, as revealed by a metabolomics analysis. Grain endogenous selenium (135 mg kg-1 vs. 0.19 mg kg-1 of the non-enriched grain) and salinity affected the sprout yield and composition, with salinity having the greatest effect on secondary metabolites. Most of the Se in sprouts was in an inorganic form, despite Se-enriched grains only containing organic Se. Some synergic effect was observed between Se and salinity. The best combination was obtained with Se-enriched grains sprouted at 25 mM NaCl, since this provided a good yield (not lower than in the untreated control), while sprout shoots were enriched in selenocystine and pro-nutritional semipolar compounds with antioxidant properties. Therefore, using grains from Se-fertilized crops and sprouting them under mild salt stress might represent a promising technique for improving the nutritional value of sprouts.
- Abiotic stress