Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 69, Issue 19, pp 3175–3186 | Cite as

Molecular mechanisms of desiccation tolerance in resurrection plants

  • Tsanko S. GechevEmail author
  • Challabathula Dinakar
  • Maria Benina
  • Valentina Toneva
  • Dorothea Bartels
Multi-author review


Resurrection plants are a small but diverse group of land plants characterized by their tolerance to extreme drought or desiccation. They have the unique ability to survive months to years without water, lose most of the free water in their vegetative tissues, fall into anabiosis, and, upon rewatering, quickly regain normal activity. Thus, they are fundamentally different from other drought-surviving plants such as succulents or ephemerals, which cope with drought by maintaining higher steady state water potential or via a short life cycle, respectively. This review describes the unique physiological and molecular adaptations of resurrection plants enabling them to withstand long periods of desiccation. The recent transcriptome analysis of Craterostigma plantagineum and Haberlea rhodopensis under drought, desiccation, and subsequent rehydration revealed common genetic pathways with other desiccation-tolerant species as well as unique genes that might contribute to the outstanding desiccation tolerance of the two resurrection species. While some of the molecular responses appear to be common for both drought stress and desiccation, resurrection plants also possess genes that are highly induced or repressed during desiccation with no apparent sequence homologies to genes of other species. Thus, resurrection plants are potential sources for gene discovery. Further proteome and metabolome analyses of the resurrection plants contributed to a better understanding of molecular mechanisms that are involved in surviving severe water loss. Understanding the cellular mechanisms of desiccation tolerance in this unique group of plants may enable future molecular improvement of drought tolerance in crop plants.


Drought stress Craterostigma plantagineum Haberlea rhodopensis Next generation sequencing Proteome Metabolome analysis 



Abscisic acid


Early light-inducible proteins


γ-Aminobutyric acid


Late embryogenesis abundant genes/proteins


Raffinose family oligosaccharides


Reactive oxygen species


Relative water content



D.B. is a member of the COST action FA090 “Putting halophytes to work”. M.B., V.T., and T.G. acknowledge EC FP7 (project BioSupport, 245588).


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel AG 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tsanko S. Gechev
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Challabathula Dinakar
    • 3
  • Maria Benina
    • 1
    • 2
  • Valentina Toneva
    • 1
    • 2
  • Dorothea Bartels
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Plant Physiology and Plant Molecular BiologyUniversity of PlovdivPlovdivBulgaria
  2. 2.Genomics Research CenterPlovdivBulgaria
  3. 3.Institute of Molecular Physiology and Biotechnology of PlantsUniversity of BonnBonnGermany

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