, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 263-285

Concepts in plant stress physiology. Application to plant tissue cultures

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Abstract

Because the term stress is used, most often subjectively, with variousmeanings, this paper first attempts to clarify the physiological definition,andthe appropriate terms as responses in different situations. The flexibility ofnormal metabolism allows the development of responses to environmental changeswhich fluctuate regularly and predictably over daily and seasonal cycles. Thusevery deviation of a factor from its optimum does not necessarily result instress. Stress begins with a constraint or with highly unpredictablefluctuations imposed on regular metabolic patterns that cause bodily injury,disease, or aberrant physiology. Stress is the altered physiological conditioncaused by factors that tend to alter an equilibrium. Strain is any physicaland/or chemical change produced by a stress, i.e. every established condition,which forces a system away from its thermodynamic optimal state. The papersecondly summarises the Strasser's state-change concept which is preciselythat suboptimality is the driving force for acclimation (genotype level) oradaptation (population level) to stress. The paper continues with the actualknowledge on the mechanisms of stress recognition and cell signalling. Briefly:plasma membranes are the sensors of environmental changes; phytohormones andsecond messengers are the transducers of information from membranes tometabolism; carbon balance is the master integrator of plant response; betwixtand between, some genes are expressed more strongly, whereas others arerepressed. Reactive oxygen species play key roles in up- and down-regulation ofmetabolism and structure. The paper shows finally that the above concepts canbeapplied to plant tissue cultures where the accumulating physiological andgenetical deviations (from a normal plant behaviour) are related to thestressing conditions of the in vitro culture media and ofthe confined environment. The hyperhydrated state of shoots and the cancerousstate of cells, both induced under conditions of stress in invitro cultures, are identified and detailed, because they perfectlyillustrate the stress-induced state-change concept. It is concluded that stressresponses include either pathologies or adaptive advantages. Stress may thuscontain both destructive and constructive elements : it is a selection factoraswell as a driving force for improved resistance and adaptive evolution.