Understanding Vegetative Desiccation Tolerance Using Integrated Functional Genomics Approaches Within a Comparative Evolutionary Framework

  • John C. CushmanEmail author
  • Melvin J. Oliver
Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 215)


Desiccation tolerance (DT) is defined as the equilibration of protoplasmic water potential with that of the surrounding air (generally dry) without loss of viability upon rehydration. Vegetative DT is widespread among mosses and lichens, but is relatively rare in vascular plants (0.15%). Recent studies of selected resurrection species indicate that while resurrection plants might have evolved unique adaptive proteins, enzymes, and antioxidants, the molecular genetic basis of DT lies in the orchestration of transcriptional and posttranscriptional regulatory programs that operate during drying and rehydration. DT requires signaling pathways and regulatory mechanisms, aspects of which resemble developmental programs present in orthodox seeds, which result in the accumulation of oligosaccharides, stress adaptive proteins, antioxidants, reactive oxygen scavenging enzymes, as well as alterations in the composition and structure of membrane lipids. Functional genomics studies using transcriptome, proteome, and metabolome analyses are just beginning to unravel the system complexity required to orchestrate the metabolic symphony that is DT. The status of current gene discovery efforts is summarized along with major transcriptome technologies available currently to conduct desiccation sensitive versus tolerant species comparisons. These strategies, integrated with large-scale proteomic and metabolomic investigations currently in progress, promise to revolutionize our understanding of the mechanistic basis of desiccation tolerance in resurrection plants.


Relative Water Content Subtractive Suppression Hybridization Late Embryogenesis Abundant Protein Massively Parallel Signature Sequencing Sucrose Accumulation 
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.



This work was supported by grants from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Research Initiative (NRI) (CREES-NRI-2007-02007) to MJ and JCC, and the University of Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station. Support for the Nevada Proteomics Center was made possible by NIH Grant Number P20 RR-016464 from the INBRE-BRIN Program of the National Center for Research Resources and the NIH IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE, RR-03-008).


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, MS200University of NevadaRenoUSA
  2. 2.USDA-ARS Plant Genetics Research Unit, 205 Curtis HallUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA

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