Facing the Cold Stress by Plants in the Changing Environment: Sensing, Signaling, and Defending Mechanisms

  • Prince Thakur
  • Harsh Nayyar


Low temperature stress is a strong determinant in governing the potential productivity of the plants. The plants of tropical and subtropical conditions are particularly more sensitive to cold stress while those growing in the temperate regions relatively experience less damage. Even the short and intermittent spells of low temperature stress can substantially restrict the growth and yield of the plants; the extent of response depends upon the growth stage. The reproductive stage experiences greater damage due to inhibitions exerted on development and function of gametes leading to fertility failures. Hence, it becomes vital to understand the mechanisms related to cold stress sensing and its transduction causing expression of defense-related genes. The cold tolerant and cold-sensitive plant species appear to differ in their response and very little is known about their molecular differences. The sensing of low temperature occurs in the membranes by histidine kinases, as revealed in some lower organisms and the equivalent mechanisms are being probed in the plants. The membranes have a vital role in thermal sensing leading to the activation of mechano-sensitive Ca2+-influx channels. The elevated calcium level in the cytosol is sensed by some kinases like CDPK and MAPK, which transduce the signals to switch on the transcriptional cascades. The well-studied pathway in response to cold stress involves the interactive functioning of ICE-CBF-COR genes. The defense mechanism includes activation in synthesis of some cryo-protectants such as sugars, proline, glycine betaine, trehalose, and polyamines. Their role in defending the plants against cold stress is beginning to be revealed. Antioxidants like ascorbic acid and glutathione (non-enzymatic) and superoxide dismutase, catalase, ascorbate peroxidase, and glutathione reductase (enzymatic) are evoked to counter the cold-induced oxidative damage. Current studies reveal variations in the expression of defense mechanisms in tolerant and sensitive species, which have provided some target genes for engineering into cold-sensitive species. The review will discuss the status of effects of cold stress on plant metabolism, perception and transduction of cold stress, genes expressed, defense mechanisms, and target genes for genetic engineering.


Nitric Oxide Cold Stress Cold Acclimation Cold Tolerance Glycine Betaine 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BotanyPunjab UniversityChandigarhIndia

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