Nav: Home

Scientists identify how plants sense temperature

January 11, 2019

When it gets hot outside, humans and animals have the luxury of seeking shelter in the shade or cool, air-conditioned buildings. But plants are stuck.

While not immune to changing climate, plants respond to the rising mercury in different ways. Temperature affects the distribution of plants around the planet. It also affects the flowering time, crop yield, and even resistance to disease.

"It is important to understand how plants respond to temperature to predict not only future food availability but also develop new technologies to help plants cope with increasing temperature," said Meng Chen, Ph.D., associate professor of cell biology at the University of California, Riverside.

Scientists are keenly interested in figuring out how plants experience temperature during the day, but until recently this mechanism has remained elusive. Chen is leading a team to explore the role of phytochrome B, a molecular signaling pathway that may play a pivotal role in how plants respond to temperature.

In a paper published in Nature Communications, Chen and colleagues at UCR describe the genetic triggers that prepare plants for growth under different temperature conditions using the model plant, Arabidopsis.

Plants grow following the circadian clock, which is controlled by the seasons. All of a plant's physiological processes are partitioned to occur at specific times of day.

According to Chen, the longstanding theory held that Arabidopsis senses an increase in temperature during the evening. In a natural situation, Arabidopsis, a winter plant, would probably never see higher temperature at night.

"This has always been puzzling to us," said Chen, senior author on the paper. "Our understanding of the phytochrome signaling pathway is that it should also sense temperature during the daytime, when the plant would actually encounter higher temperature."

In fact, Arabidopsis grows at different times of day as the seasons change. In the summer, the plant grows during the day, but during the winter it grows at night. Previous experiments that mimicked winter conditions showed a dramatic response in phytochrome B, but experiments that mimicked summer conditions were less robust.

Chen and his team decided to examine the role of phytochrome B in Arabidopsis at 21 degrees Celsius and 27 degrees Celsius under red light. The monochromatic wavelength allowed the team to study how this particular plant sensor functions without interference from other wavelengths of light.

"Under these conditions, we see a robust response," Chen said. "The work shows that phytochrome B is a temperature sensor during the day in the summer. Without this photoreceptor, the response in plants is significantly reduced."

Beyond identifying the function of phytochrome B, Chen's work also points to the role of HEMERA, a transcription activator that turns on the temperature-responsive genes that control plant growth.

"We found the master control for temperature sensing in plants," Chen said. "HEMERA is conserved in all plants, from moss to flowering plants."

In essence, Chen and his team identified the genetic mechanism used by all plants as they respond to daylight conditions as well as the ability to sense temperature.

Chen acknowledges that not all plants may respond in the same way as Arabidopsis in this study. Before this research could be applied, it may be necessary to understand how this temperature-signaling pathway behaves in different plant systems. Chen believes the pathway is probably similar for all plants and may only require minor modifications.

The research team hopes to expand on this study by adding more complexity to future experimental designs, such as exploring the response of the signaling pathway under white light or diurnal conditions. Chen would also like to examine how other plant systems use HEMERA to experience temperature.

"To cope with rapid temperature changes associated with global warming, we may have to help nature to evolve crops to adapt to the new environment," Chen said. "This will require a molecular understanding of how plants sense and respond to temperature."
-end-
The paper, titled "Daytime temperature is sensed by phytochrome B in Arabidopsis through a transcriptional activator HEMERA," was published in the January issue of Nature Communications. In addition to Chen, collaborators at UC Riverside include: Yongjian Qiu, Meina Li, Ruth Jean-Ae Kim, and Carisha M. Moore. The study was funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

University of California - Riverside

Related Arabidopsis Articles:

Applying CRISPR beyond Arabidopsis thaliana
In the plant sciences, CRISPR--the bacterial gene editing toolbox that enables more precise and efficient editing of genomic sequences than previously possible--has initially been applied with genetic model organisms like Arabidopsis thaliana.
A molecular map for the plant sciences
Plants are essential for life on earth. They provide food for essentially all organisms, oxygen for breathing, and they regulate the climate of the planet.
Putting a finger on plant stress response
Researchers from the University of Tsukuba have found that a PHD zinc finger-like domain in SUMO E3 ligase SIZ1 is essential for protein function in Arabidopsis.
Better anchor roots help crops grow in poor soils
A newly discovered plant metabolite that promotes anchor root growth may prove valuable in helping crops grow in nutrient-deficient soils.
Plant peptide helps roots to branch out in the right places
How do plants space out their roots? A Japanese research team has identified a peptide and its receptor that help lateral roots to grow with the right spacing.
Scientists identify how plants sense temperature
A UC Riverside researcher is leading a team exploring how plants respond to temperature.
Scientists consider climate change-resistant crops
Meng Chen and his team identified the genetic mechanism used by all plants as they respond to daylight conditions as well as the ability to sense temperature.
Network biology reveals pathogen targets in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana
Using systems biology, researchers successfully identified previously unknown protein targets of plant pathogens in the flowering plant Arabidopsis thaliana, employing some of the same methods used to analyze social networks or biological networks.
Chinese scientists reveal a novel signaling pathway for chilling tolerance in rice
The research team guided by Prof. CHONG Kang from Institute of Botany of the Chinese Academy of Sciences reveals new mechanism of chilling tolerance mediated by OsMAPK3-OsbHLH002-OsTPP1 in rice.
Plants engineered to express a fruit fly gene may help clean up environmental pollutant
Through a process called phytoremediation, researchers are using plants to clean up land contaminated with TNT, a toxic environmental pollutant and possible carcinogen.
More Arabidopsis News and Arabidopsis Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Making Amends
What makes a true apology? What does it mean to make amends for past mistakes? This hour, TED speakers explore how repairing the wrongs of the past is the first step toward healing for the future. Guests include historian and preservationist Brent Leggs, law professor Martha Minow, librarian Dawn Wacek, and playwright V (formerly Eve Ensler).
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.