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Plant Physiol. 2013 Aug;162(4):1849-66. doi: 10.1104/pp.113.221044. Epub 2013 Jun 10.

Simultaneous application of heat, drought, and virus to Arabidopsis plants reveals significant shifts in signaling networks.

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Biochemistry Division, Department of Biology, Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuernberg, 91058 Erlangen, Germany.


Considering global climate change, the incidence of combined drought and heat stress is likely to increase in the future and will considerably influence plant-pathogen interactions. Until now, little has been known about plants exposed to simultaneously occurring abiotic and biotic stresses. To shed some light on molecular plant responses to multiple stress factors, a versatile multifactorial test system, allowing simultaneous application of heat, drought, and virus stress, was developed in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana). Comparative analysis of single, double, and triple stress responses by transcriptome and metabolome analysis revealed that gene expression under multifactorial stress is not predictable from single stress treatments. Hierarchical cluster and principal component analyses identified heat as the major stress factor, clearly separating heat-stressed from non-heat-stressed plants. We identified 11 genes differentially regulated in all stress combinations as well as 23 genes specifically regulated under triple stress. Furthermore, we showed that virus-treated plants displayed enhanced expression of defense genes, which was abolished in plants additionally subjected to heat and drought stress. Triple stress also reduced the expression of genes involved in the R-mediated disease response and increased the cytoplasmic protein response, which was not seen under single stress conditions. These observations suggested that abiotic stress factors significantly altered turnip mosaic virus-specific signaling networks, which led to a deactivation of defense responses and a higher susceptibility of plants. Collectively, our transcriptome and metabolome data provide a powerful resource to study plant responses during multifactorial stress and allow identifying metabolic processes and functional networks involved in tripartite interactions of plants with their environment.

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