How Plants Adapt to Different Temperatures

Méndez-Vigo et al. explore how plants from different world regions adapt to different temperature conditions. Plant Cell  

 By Belen Méndez-Vigo and Carlos Alonso-Blanco

 Background:  Plants adapt to seasonal and yearly fluctuations in ambient temperature by altering multiple aspects of their development, such as growth and the time to initiate flowering. These modifications in plant development depending on temperature are known as thermal developmental plasticity. In plants with a broad geographic distribution, individuals or varieties from different world regions have different types of plasticity, which reflect adaptations to different natural environments. Currently, few genes and molecular mechanisms involved in the adaptation of plants to different ambient temperatures are known.

Question: We wanted to find out how plants from different world regions adapt to different climate temperatures.

Findings: We identified two homologous genes, ICARUS1 (ICA1) and ICA2, which are responsible for the differences in thermal developmental plasticity shown by natural varieties of the model plant Arabidopsis. Both genes interact genetically to affect plant traits such as growth and flowering time, as well as cellular features such as the number of copies of the genome, i.e., ploidy level. We found that Arabidopsis plants from different world locations harbor different natural mutations in ICA2, suggesting that this gene might be involved in plant adaptation to different climates. Finally, we discovered that very few of copies (mostly one or two) of ICA genes are present in all plants across evolution.

Next steps: We plan to explore the precise molecular function of ICA genes in plants and how this function is regulated by fluctuating temperatures.

Belén Méndez-Vigo, Israel Ausín, Wangsheng Zhu, Almudena Mollá-Morales, Sureshkumar Balasubramanian, and Carlos Alonso-Blanco (2019). Genetic Interactions and Molecular Evolution of the Duplicated Genes ICARUS2 and ICARUS1 Help Arabidopsis Plants Adapt to Different Ambient Temperatures. Plant Cell DOI:


Key Words: temperature, development, flowering, gene duplication