• Erwin H Beck

      Articles written in Journal of Biosciences

    • Plant resistance to cold stress: Mechanisms and environmental signals triggering frost hardening and dehardening

      Erwin H Beck Richard Heim Jens Hansen

      More Details Abstract Fulltext PDF

      This introductory overview shows that cold, in particular frost, stresses a plant in manifold ways and that the plant’s response, being injurious or adaptive, must be considered a syndrome rather than a single reaction. In the course of the year perennial plants of the temperate climate zones undergo frost hardening in autumn and dehardening in spring. Using Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) as a model plant the environmental signals inducing frost hardening and dehardening, respectively, were investigated. Over 2 years the changes in frost resistance of Scots pine needles were recorded together with the annual courses of day-length and ambient temperature. Both act as environmental signals for frost hardening and dehardening. Climate chamber experiments showed that short day-length as a signal triggering frost hardening could be replaced by irradiation with far red light, while red light inhibited hardening. The involvement of phytochrome as a signal receptor could be corroborated by respective night-break experiments. More rapid frost hardening than by short day or far red treatment was achieved by applying a short period (6 h) of mild frost which did not exceed the plant’s cold resistance. Both types of signals were independently effective but the rates of frost hardening were not additive. The maximal rate of hardening was − 0.93°C per day and frost tolerance of < − 72°C was achieved. For dehardening, temperature was an even more effective signal than day-length.

    • specific and unspecific responses of plants to cold and drought stress

      Erwin H Beck Sebastian Fettig Claudia Knake Katja Hartig Tribikram Bhattarai

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      Different environmental stresses to a plant may result in similar responses at the cellular and molecular level. This is due to the fact that the impacts of the stressors trigger similar strains and downstream signal transduction chains. A good example for an unspecific response is the reaction to stressors which induce water deficiency e.g. drought, salinity and cold, especially frost. The stabilizing effect of liquid water on the membrane bilayer can be supported by compatible solutes and special proteins. At the metabolic level, osmotic adjustment by synthesis of low-molecular osmolytes (carbohydrates, betains, proline) can counteract cellular dehydration and turgor loss. Taking the example of Pinus sylvestris, changes at the level of membrane composition, and concomitantly of photosynthetic capacity during frost hardening is shown. Additionally the effect of photoperiod as measured via the phytochrome system and the effect of subfreezing temperatures on the incidence of frost hardening is discussed. Extremely hydrophilic proteins such as dehydrins are common products protecting not only the biomembranes in ripening seeds (late embryogenesis abundant proteins) but accumulate also in the shoots and roots during cold adaptation, especially in drought tolerant plants. Dehydrins are characterized by conserved amino acid motifs, called the K-, Y- or S-segments. Accumulation of dehydrins can be induced not only by drought, but also by cold, salinity, treatment with abscisic acid and methyl jasmonate. Positive effects of the overexpression of a wild chickpea (Cicer pinnatifidum) dehydrin in tobacco plants on the dehydration tolerance is shown. The presentation discusses the perception of cold and drought, the subsequent signal transduction and expression of genes and their products. Differences and similarities between the plant responses to both stressors are also discussed.

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