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
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."