Annals of Botany

Hot one day, cold the next

The bioenergy grass Miscanthus × giganteus exhibits a superior tolerance to chilling shock compared with the other genotypes.
Chilling-shock responses in Miscanthus
Chilling-shock responses in Miscanthus

Ah, the joys of the British climate. Although much of the UK is currently basking in a heatwave (sufficient to melt the cheese in the sandwiches in my south-facing office drawer), by the time this is published I’ll probably be wearing two jumpers and gloves in order to keep my fingers warm enough to type these thrilling blog posts. But it’s easy for me – I can just wrap up to keep warm (and I find that whisky helps too, but only after I’ve finished blogging). What are plants supposed to do – stuck out there in the fields – when it suddenly gets chilly? And what if we are relying on those plants for our future energy needs?

The bioenergy grass Miscanthus is native to eastern Asia. As Miscanthus uses C4 photosynthesis, the cooler temperatures experienced in much of northern Europe are expected to limit productivity. Identification of genetic diversity in chilling tolerance will enable breeders to generate more productive varieties for these cooler regions. Characterizing the temporal relationships between photosynthesis, carbohydrate and molecular expression of relevant genes is key to understanding genotypic differences in tolerance or sensitivity.

A recent paper in Annals of Botany characterizes chilling responses in four Miscanthus genotypes, using plants exposed to a sudden reduction in temperature. Changes in photosynthesis, carbohydrate composition and the expression of target transcripts were observed following chilling-shock. The authors found that Miscanthus × giganteus exhibits a superior tolerance to chilling shock than other genotypes of Miscanthus. The absence of sucrose accumulation in M. sacchariflorus during chilling-shock suggests an impairment in enzyme function. A candidate transcription factor, MsCBF3, is most highly expressed in the most sensitive genotypes and may be a suitable molecular marker for predicting chilling sensitivity. If, as in Arabidopsis, gene polymorphisms relating to tolerance are identified, this gene may be used as a molecular marker to screen seedlings and potential parents for chilling tolerance.

 

Characterization of chilling-shock responses in four genotypes of Miscanthus reveals the superior tolerance of M. × giganteus compared with M. sinensis and M. sacchariflorus (2013) Annals of Botany 111 (5): 999-1013. doi: 10.1093/aob/mct059
The bioenergy grass Miscanthus is native to eastern Asia. As Miscanthus uses C4 photosynthesis, the cooler temperatures experienced in much of northern Europe are expected to limit productivity. Identification of genetic diversity in chilling tolerance will enable breeders to generate more productive varieties for these cooler regions. Characterizing the temporal relationships between photosynthesis, carbohydrate and molecular expression of relevant genes is key to understanding genotypic differences in tolerance or sensitivity. To characterize chilling responses in four Miscanthus genotypes, plants were exposed to a sudden reduction in temperature. The genotypes studied comprised of two M. sinensis, one M. sacchariflorus and one inter-species hybrid, M. × giganteus. Changes in photosynthesis (Asat), carbohydrate composition and the expression of target transcripts were observed following chilling-shock. After 4 d the decline in leaf elongation rate (LER) in the different genotypes was measured. Following chilling-shock the greatest decline in Asat was observed in M. sacchariflorus and one M. sinensis genotype. Carbohydrate concentrations increased in all genotypes following chilling but to a lesser extent in M. sacchariflorus. Two stress inducible genes were most highly expressed in the genotypes that experienced the greatest declines in Asat and LER. Miscanthus × giganteus retained the highest Asat and was unique in exhibiting no decline in LER following transfer to 12 °C. Miscanthus × giganteus exhibits a superior tolerance to chilling shock than other genotypes of Miscanthus. The absence of sucrose accumulation in M. sacchariflorus during chilling-shock suggests an impairment in enzyme function. A candidate transcription factor, MsCBF3, is most highly expressed in the most sensitive genotypes and may be a suitable molecular marker for predicting chilling sensitivity.

 

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