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How plants chill out
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Experiments with mutants are unveiling the mechanisms plants use to survive cold, offering the hope of producing resistant crops.
Brassinosteroids are chemicals plants use to regulate growth in response to stress. By creating mutants with impaired brassinosteroid perception and exposing them to freezing temperatures for several hours, a team led by researchers at the Technical University of Munich showed that plants that have trouble perceiving brassinosteroids are less able to tolerate low temperatures.
The team also analyzed gene expression in cold-treated plants with defective brassinosteroid perception. In response to the cold, brassinosteroids alter the activity of a regulatory gene known as CES, which activates a group of genes known to be cold-responsive. Mutant plants with increased CES expression had greater tolerance than normal plants.
These findings enhance our understanding of extreme temperature tolerance and indicate new research avenues.
- PNAS 113, E5982-5991 (2016). doi: 10.1073/pnas.1611477113