Temperature Stress in Plants


Temperature stress in plants is classified into three types depending on the stressor, which may be high, chilling or freezing temperature. Temperature‐stressed plants show low germination rates, growth retardation, reduced photosynthesis, and often die. The elucidation of mechanisms by which temperature stress causes disorders is important to reveal responses by which plants cope with adverse temperature conditions. However, plants respond to temperature stress by regulating membrane lipid composition, stress‐related transcription factors, metabolite synthesis and detoxification pathways. Such plant molecular responses to temperature stress will help establish genetic engineering techniques to produce temperature stress‐tolerant plants. Genetic engineering techniques have been applied to improve the adaptability of plants by altering temperature stress‐related gene expression in response to unfavourable temperature conditions. In this article, the authors focus on plant responses and adaptation to temperature stress and strategies for the genetic improvement of temperature stress tolerance in plants.

Key Concepts:

  • Plants cope with adverse temperature stress by altering molecular mechanisms involving proteins, antioxidants, metabolites, regulatory factors, other protectants and membrane lipids.

  • Thermotolerance is closely correlated with the production of toxic acrolein and methyl vinyl ketone from membrane trienoic fatty acids under heat stress, and it is possible to produce thermotolerant plants with reduced trienoic fatty acid contents.

  • Regulatory factors such as heat shock factors directly and/or indirectly induce accumulation of stress‐related gene products under high temperature conditions and contribute to thermotolerance.

  • Under high temperature conditions, several protectants, such as glycinebetaine which apparently stabilises photosystem II proteins, accumulate to protect proteins and photosystems in plants.

  • Antioxidants decrease levels of stress‐inducible reactive oxygen species, contributing to improved tolerance to cold as well as high temperature stress.

Keywords: temperature stress; global warming; membrane lipid composition; regulatory factor; antioxidant; heat shock protein

Figure 1.

Thermotolerant cyclamen with reduced TA‐derived compounds, ACR and MVK (Kai et al., ). (a) Comparison of thermotolerance in the cyclamen cultivar ‘Victoria’ and the transgenic plant (T15) with low TA contents at the reproductive stage under heat stress (38 °C, constant light). The TA contents of leaf tissues in each plant indicate under side of the panel. Scale bar, 10 cm. (b) Damage symptoms displayed by excised cyclamen leaves after heat stress treatment (38 °C, 5 days, constant light) or infiltration with water (water‐infiltrated), ACR and MVK. The infiltrated leaves were treated with 5 ppm ACR for 3 days or 50 ppm MVK for 2 days at 20 °C under 16 h light. Scale bar, 5 cm. © Professor Koh Iba.



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Further Reading

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Wahid A, Gelani S, Ashraf M and Foolad MR (2007) Heat tolerance in plants: an overview. Environmental and Experimental Botany 61: 199–223.

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Kai, Hiroomi, and Iba, Koh(Apr 2014) Temperature Stress in Plants. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0001320.pub2]