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TIPTOP – Temperature Integration via Phase Change and Translation of Proteins in Plants

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2021 - 2026

How do plants sense temperature?

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In contrast to many other pathways in plants, the primary mechanisms of temperature perception are still poorly understood. Temperature sensing plays an essential role in the survival of plants. In the course of evolution, plants have developed a variety of mechanisms to adapt to changing temperatures, as they need to be able to quickly capture information about the local temperature and adapt their metabolism and development to survive. Plants use temperature information to make seasonal decisions such as when to flower and grow, as well as short term changes to protect themselves against cold and heat stress. For all these responses, plants must be able to sense temperature.

Research on how plants sense and adapt to temperature change is particularly relevant to agriculture during an era of rapid climate change. Plants are particularly vulnerable to rapid changes in temperature. Heat stress can cause crop losses of about 10 % for every additional 1 ºC increase in temperature. Since extreme weather events are becoming more frequent due to global warming, it is paramount that we understand how plants sense and use temperature information, so that we can breed climate resilient crops.

In the TIPTOP project, we investigate how plants determine a correct temperature signal, even if the surrounding macro- and microclimate fluctuates for a short periods. So far, how different temperature signals are determined in individual cells, how they are integrated within the entire plant and how this leads to a coordinated reaction in growth and development processes remain still unknown. The project builds on recent advances by the team in understanding how individual proteins and RNA molecules can act as miniature temperature sensors, and uses synthetic biology to re-engineer temperature responsive circuits in the cell.

The transition from vegetative to reproductive growth in Arabidopsis thaliana is accelerated at higher ambient temperatures.

 

Arabidopsis hypocotyl length increases with increasing ambient temperature.

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