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Abiotic stress: Heat and cold stresses

 

Abstract

Plants adjust their metabolism in response to environmental stress conditions. However, heat stress due to high environmental temperatures is a serious threat to crop production worldwide.

At high temperatures a set of morphological, physiological and biochemical changes in plants are observed, which affect plant growth and development. High temperatures may adversely affect photosynthesis, respiration, water relations and membrane stability and also modulate levels of hormones and primary and secondary metabolites (Passarinho et al. 2006, Wahid et al. 2007, Haldimann et al 2008). These responses involve an enhanced expression of a variety of heat shock proteins (HSPs), other stress-related proteins, and production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). In order to cope with heat stress, plants implement various mechanisms, including maintenance of membrane stability, scavenging of ROS, production of antioxidants, accumulation of compatible solutes, induction of protein kinase cascades, chaperone signaling, and transcriptional activation (Wahid et al. 2007). In general, a transient elevation in temperature, usually 10-15ºC above ambient, is considered stress, but heat stress also depends on temperature intensity, duration of treatment and rate of increase. Furthermore, it is known that plants have the ability to acquire thermotolerance to survive under lethal temperature resulting from a prior exposure to a conditioning pre-treatment (Vierling 1991). Plant heat-stress tolerance has been shown to be a multigenic trait and HSPs, ABA, ROS and SA pathways are known to be involved in the development and maintenance of acquired thermotolerance (Larkindale and Huang 2006; Charng et al., 2006). Nonetheless, there is a limited knowledge of genes with known effects on plant heat stress tolerance. Low temperature also constitutes an important limiting factor, with impacts on photosynthesis, uptake of water and nutrients, as well as on crop production quality and post-harvest life (Ensminger et al. 2006, Chinnusamy et al. 2007). Negative effects are observed in many plants, and are particularly clear in tropical and sub-tropical plants, but even in temperate climate of the Mediterranean region, temperature amplitudes in the range of 15 to 0ºC may occur. Such temperatures can have negative effects on growth, development and photosynthesis as shown by several studies (Foyer et al. 2002, 2005, Karpinski et al. 2002). In fact, chilling impairs all photosynthetic components, e.g., reduces stomatal conductance, provokes changes in the pigment complexes and losses of photochemical efficiency, restricts electron transport through modifications in the biophysical properties of thylakoid lipids, and decreases enzyme activity and carbohydrate metabolism (Adams et al. 2002, Ensminger et al. 2006, Saibo et al. 2009). Moreover, chilling promotes an imbalance between absorbed energy and its use by metabolic sinks, since it reduces more strongly the enzymatic reactions involved in C, N and S reduction than the photophysical and photochemical processes engaged in energy absorption, transfer and transformation (Ensminger et al. 2006). Nevertheless, the exposure to low-positive temperatures during a rather long period may promote the acclimation of plants to subsequent cold exposure and even in chilling-sensitive plants some acclimation is possible (Krause 1994). This process is also observed in oak plants (Cavender-Bares 2007) and involves complex morphological, metabolic, ultrastructural and gene expression changes (Kratsch and Wise 2000, Campos et al. 2003, Buskirk and Tomashow 2006). It has been reported that transcriptional, post-transcriptional (e.g. pre-mRNA splicing, mRNA export and small RNA-directed mRNA degradation), and post-translational regulation (e.g. proteolysis and SUMOylation) of gene expression is essential for cold acclimation (Chinnusamy et al. 2007). The identification of genes involved in these processes is thus of high interest in this forest species. This work will be done jointly between ITQB and IICT, both at the Oeiras Campus. Both institutions have expertise in this subject, in different species including cork oak.

Involved Groups:

Plant Biochemistry (PB, iBET & ITQB)
Genomics of Plant Stress Lab (GPlantS, iBET & ITQB)
Forest Biotechnology (FB, iBET)
EcoBio (IICT)

Members:

Cândido Pinto Ricardo (IR) (iBET, PB)
Margarida Oliveira (iBET, GPlantS)
Inês Chaves (iBET, PB, FB)
Isabel Abreu (iBET, GPlantS)
Nelson Saibo (iBET, GPlantS)
José Cochicho Ramalho (IICT, EcoBio)
Ana Fortunato (IICT, EcoBio)

Involved Institutions:

Instituto de Biologia Experimental Technológica (iBET)
Instituto de Investigação Científica Tropical (IICT)

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