Cereal Research Communications

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 1–18 | Cite as

Can Wheat Beat the Heat: Understanding the Mechanism of Thermotolerance in Wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)

A Review
  • R. R. KumarEmail author
  • R. D. Rai
Invited Review


Wheat is one of the staple food crops in major areas of the world providing the required carbohydrate and proteins in our diet. A decrease in the total yield of wheat has been observed worldwide due to elevation in environmental temperature. Heat stress causes pollen sterility, drying of stigmatic fluid, pseudo-seed setting, empty pockets in endosperm and shrivelled seeds in wheat. Every plant system has defence mechanisms to cope up with the different environmental challenges. The defence mechanisms of wheat consist of heat responsive miRNAs, signalling molecules, transcription factors and stress associated proteins like heat shock proteins (HSPs), antioxidant enzymes etc. Wheat is sensitive to heat stress especially in stages like pollination to milky dough kernel stages is critical for growth and development. Heat stress causes an oxidative burst inside cell system followed by increase in the expression of various proteins like protein kinases, HSPs and antioxidant enzymes. These stress proteins modulate the defence mechanisms of wheat by protecting the denaturation and aggregation of nascent proteins involved in various metabolic reactions. Genetic variation has been observed with respect to expression and accumulation of these stress proteins. Exogenous treatment of various hormones, signalling molecules and chemicals has been reported to enhance the thermotolerance level of wheat under heat stress. Tools of genetic engineering have been also used to develop wheat transgenic lines with over-expression of stress proteins under heat stress condition. There is an arduous task in front of breeders and molecular biologists to develop a climate smart wheat crop with sustainable yield under the threat of global climate change.


heat stress heat shock proteins antioxidant enzymes micro RNAs transcription factors calcium dependent protein kinases wheat cell membrane stability reactive oxygen species 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of BiochemistryIndian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI)New DelhiIndia

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