Biotech Updates

Scientists Identify How Plants Sense Temperature

January 16, 2019

The mechanism of plant response to temperature has been elusive to scientists. Dr. Meng Chen, associate professor of cell biology at the University of California, Riverside said that 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.

Chen is leading a team to explore the role of phytochrome B, a molecular signaling pathway that may play a pivotal role in plant response to temperature. In a paper published in Nature Communications, Chen and colleagues describe the genetic triggers that prepare plants for growth under different temperature conditions using Arabidopsis.

Chen and his team examined the role of phytochrome B in Arabidopsis at 21oC and 27oC under red light. The monochromatic wavelength allowed the team to study how this particular plant sensor functions without interference from other wavelengths of light. They found that phytochrome B is a temperature sensor during the day in summer, and without this photoreceptor, plant response is significantly reduced.

Aside from identifying the function of phytochrome B, Chen's research 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."

For more details, read the article in UC Riverside News.