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Relax. Plants can regulate multiple stresses

Biotic and abiotic stresses play a major role in natural selection in wild plants, but few studies have addressed their responses to different stress factors occurring simultaneously. This phenomenon was investigated by an EU-funded initiative, which explored how combined stress can affect plants differently than a single stress factor acting alone.
Relax. Plants can regulate multiple stresses
Plants have coevolved with an enormous variety of microbial and insect enemies, while enduring heat, cold, water logging and drought. This has resulted in an impressive range of natural adaptive mechanisms that enable plants to deal with different forms of biotic and abiotic stress.

The SIGNSTRESSPATH (Networking by stress signalling pathways: identification of novel regulators of combinatorial stress tolerance) project investigated molecular responses triggered by drought and the necrotrophic pathogen Botrytis cinerea. These two factors are among the most severe stresses and are responsible for significant economic losses both in the field and in postharvest conditions.

A set of Arabidopsis ecotype Col-0 plants were treated with the pathogen B. cinerea and subjected to drought conditions to determine the effect of drought stress on disease resistance to the fungus. The whole-transcriptome profile of the model organism triggered by the selected single and combined abiotic and biotic stresses was analysed by RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq).

By profiling the whole genome expression a gene regulatory network model of the biotic and abiotic signal interaction was developed. This revealed complex transcriptional reprogramming and rewiring and primary and secondary metabolic and defence related processes affected by single and double stresses.

The project’s findings highlighted the natural mechanisms used by plants to resist to multiple adverse conditions. It may also open up new possibilities for rewiring defence networks through modulating hormone-regulated signalling pathways, thereby minimizing impact of stresses on crop yield.

SIGNSTRESSPATH also offers transferable knowledge and skills to the plant breeding industry and agricultural biotech companies. For example, regulatory genes of multiple stress responses for use in marker-assisted breeding programmes or engineering second-generation genetically modified crops that require little or no chemical agents to control diseases.

Related information


Biotic, abiotic, transcriptome, signaling pathways, Botrytis cinerea, drought, Arabidopsis, RNA sequencing, regulatory network, multifactorial stress
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