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To investigate the physiological responses of plants to high root-zone temperature (HT, 35 °C) stress mitigated by exogenous glutathione (GSH), cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) seedlings were exposed to HT with or without GSH treatment for 4 days and following with 4 days of recovery. Plant physiological variables, growth, and gene expression related to antioxidant enzymes and Calvin cycle were quantified. The results showed that HT significantly decreased GSH content, the ratio of reduced to oxidized glutathione (GSH/GSSG), chlorophyll content, photosynthesis and related gene expression, shoot height, stem diameter, as well as dry weight. The exogenous GSH treatment clearly lessened the HT stress by increasing the above variables. Meanwhile, HT significantly increased soluble protein content, proline and malondialdehyde (MDA) content as well as O2•− production rate, the gene expression and activities of antioxidant enzymes. The GSH treatment remarkably improved soluble protein content, proline content, antioxidant enzymes activities, and antioxidant enzymes related gene expression, and reduced the MDA content and O2•− production rate compared to no GSH treatment in the HT condition. Our results suggest that exogenous GSH enhances cucumber seedling tolerance of HT stress by modulating the photosynthesis, antioxidant and osmolytes systems to improve physiological adaptation.

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