Send to

Choose Destination
BMC Plant Biol. 2017 Jun 14;17(1):103. doi: 10.1186/s12870-017-1051-1.

Brief temperature stress during reproductive stages alters meiotic recombination and somatic mutation rates in the progeny of Arabidopsis.

Author information

Department of Biotechnology, Indian Institute of Technology-Madras, Bhupat and Jyoti Mehta School of Biosciences, Chennai, 600 036, India.
Write about Research, 14 Randwick Street, Randwick, Sydney, 2031, Australia.
Department of Biotechnology, Indian Institute of Technology-Madras, Bhupat and Jyoti Mehta School of Biosciences, Chennai, 600 036, India.



Plants exposed to environmental stresses draw upon many genetic and epigenetic strategies, with the former sometimes modulated by the latter. This can help the plant, and its immediate progeny, at least, to better endure the stress. Some evidence has led to proposals that (epi) genetic changes can be both selective and sustainably heritable, while other evidence suggests that changes are effectively stochastic, and important only because they induce genetic variation. One type of stress with an arguably high level of stochasticity in its effects is temperature stress. Studies of how heat and cold affect the rates of meiotic recombination (MR) and somatic mutations (SMs, which are potentially heritable in plants) report increases, decreases, or no effect. Collectively, they do not point to any consistent patterns. Some of this variability, however, might arise from the stress being applied for such an extended time, typically days or weeks. Here, we adopted a targeted approach by (1) limiting exposure to one hour; and (2) timing it to coincide with (a) gamete, and early gametophyte, development, a period of high stress sensitivity; and (b) a late stage of vegetative development.


For plants (Arabidopsis thaliana) otherwise grown at 22 °C, we measured the effects of a 1 h exposure to cold (12 °C) or heat (32 °C) on the rates of MR, and four types of SMs (frameshift mutations; intrachromosomal recombination; base substitutions; transpositions) in the F1 progeny. One parent (wild type) was stressed, the other (unstressed) carried a genetic event detector. When rates were compared to those in progeny of control (both parents unstressed) two patterns emerged. In the progeny of younger plants (stressed at 36 days; pollinated at 40 days) heat and cold either had no effect (on MR) or (for SMs) had effects that were rare and stochastic. In the progeny of older plants (stressed at 41 days; pollinated at 45 days), while effects were also infrequent, those that were seen followed a consistent pattern: rates of all five genetic events were lowest at 12 °C and highest at 32 °C, i.e. they varied in a "dose-response" manner. This pattern was strongest (or, in the case of MR, only apparent) in progeny whose stressed parent was female.


While the infrequency of effects suggests the need for cautious inference, the consistency of responses in the progeny of older plants, indicate that in some circumstances the level of stochasticity in inherited genetic responses to heat or cold stress can be context-dependent, possibly reflecting life-cycle stages in the parental generation that are variably stress sensitive.


Arabidopsis; Meiotic recombination; Somatic mutation rates; Stochasticity; Temperature stress

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for BioMed Central Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center