Function of Plant Heat Shock Transcription Factors in Abiotic Stress

  • Sonal Mishra
  • Aksar Ali Chowdhary
  • Shakti Mehrotra
  • Vikas SrivastavaEmail author
Part of the Energy, Environment, and Sustainability book series (ENENSU)


Plants under natural environment necessitate dealing with various abiotic constraints that have significant impact on plant growth and development. These abiotic constraints include low and high temperature, salinity, drought, chemical pollutants etc which adversely affect plant production potential. Plants respond to such discomfort by various phenological, physiological, biochemical and molecular alterations/mechanisms to minimize their negative impact. Many of these responses require high expression of stress-responsive genes mediated by various transcription factors. The heat shock transcription factor (Hsfs) is one such transcription factor that offers a crucial role in abiotic stress response by regulation of heat shock proteins (Hsps). Hsfs in plants are represented by high numbers as compared with other eukaryotes, thus giving more opportunity for Hsfs associated functions mainly in plant stress management. Taking the account of this background, the present chapter has been structured to cover aspects of plant Hsfs along with their contribution in abiotic stress management, which will offer a better understanding for managing adequate crop productivity.


Abiotic stress Drought stress Heat shock transcription factors (Hsfs) Heat stress Heavy metal stress Salt stress 



S.M. is thankful to Science & Engineering Research Board (SERB, India) for NPDF (PDF/2016/002133) fellowship. A.K.C. and V.S. acknowledges Central University of Jammu for providing the work facility. V.S. is also thankful to UGC, India for UGC-BSR Research Start Up Grant.


  1. Albihlal WS, Obomighie I, Blein T, Persad R, Chernukhin I, Crespi M, Bechtold U, Mullineaux PM (2018) Arabidopsis HEAT SHOCK TRANSCRIPTION FACTORA1b regulates multiple developmental genes under benign and stress conditions. J Exp Bot 69(11):2847–2862CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Almoguera C, Personat JM, Prieto-Dapena P, Jordano J (2015) Heat shock transcription factors involved in seed desiccation tolerance and longevity retard vegetative senescence in transgenic tobacco. Planta 242(2):461–475CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ashraf MF, Yang S, Wu R, Wang Y, Hussain A, Noman A, Khan MI, Liu Z, Qiu A, Guan D, He S (2018) Capsicum annuumHsfB2a positively regulates the response to Ralstoniasolanacearum infection or high temperature and high humidity forming transcriptional cascade with CaWRKY6 and CaWRKY40. Plant Cell Physiol 59(12):2608–2623PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Baniwal SK, Bharti K, Chan KY, Fauth M, Ganguli A, Kotak S (2004) Heat stress response in plants: a complex game with chaperones and more than twenty heat stress transcription factors. J Biosci 29:471–487CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Banti V, Mafessoni F, Loreti E, Alpi A, Perata P (2010) The heat-inducible transcription factor HsfA2 enhances anoxia tolerance in Arabidopsis. Plant Physiol 152(3):1471–1483CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bechtold U, Albihlal WS, Lawson T, Fryer MJ, Sparrow PA, Richard F, Persad R, Bowden L, Hickman R, Martin C, Beynon JL (2013) Arabidopsis HEAT SHOCK TRANSCRIPTION FACTORA1b overexpression enhances water productivity, resistance to drought, and infection. J Exp Bot 64(11):3467–3481CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cai SY, Zhang Y, Xu YP, Qi ZY, Li MQ, Ahammed GJ, Xia XJ, Shi K, Zhou YH, Reiter RJ, Yu JQ (2017) HsfA1a upregulates melatonin biosynthesis to confer cadmium tolerance in tomato plants. J Pineal Res 62(2):e12387CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chen H, Hwang JE, Lim CJ, Kim DY, Lee SY, Lim CO (2010) Arabidopsis DREB2C functions as a transcriptional activator of HsfA3 during the heat stress response. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 401(2):238–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chen SS, Jiang J, Han XJ, Zhang YX, Zhuo RY (2018) Identification, expression analysis of the Hsf family, and characterization of class A4 in Sedum alfrediiHance under cadmium stress. Int J Mol Sci 19(4):1216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cheng Q, Zhou Y, Liu Z, Zhang L, Song G, Guo Z, Wang W, Qu X, Zhu Y, Yang D (2015) An alternatively spliced heat shock transcription factor, OsHSFA 2dI, functions in the heat stress-induced unfolded protein response in rice. Plant Biology 17(2):419–429CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Damberger FF, Pelton JG, Harrison CJ, Nelson HC, Wemmer DE (1994) Solution structure of the DNA-binding domain of the heat shock transcription factor determined by multidimensional heteronuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Protein Sci 3(10):1806–1821CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Deng X, Wang J, Wang J, Tian W (2018) Two HbHsfA1 and HbHsfB1 genes from the tropical woody plant rubber tree confer cold stress tolerance in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Braz J Bot 41(3):711–724CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Döring P, Treuter E, Kistner C, Lyck R, Chen A, Nover L (2000) The role of AHA motifs in the activator function of tomato heat stress transcription factors HsfA1 and HsfA2. Plant Cell 12(2):265–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Evrard A, Kumar M, Lecourieux D, Lucks J, von Koskull-Döring P, Hirt H (2013) Regulation of the heat stress response in Arabidopsis by MPK6-targeted phosphorylation of the heat stress factor HsfA2. Peer J 1:e59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fragkostefanakis S, Röth S, Schleiff E, Scharf KD (2015) Prospects of engineering thermotolerance in crops through modulation of heat stress transcription factor and heat shock protein networks. Plant Cell Environ 38:1881–1895CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gong B, Yi J, Wu J, Sui J, Khan MA, Wu Z, Zhong X, Seng S, He J, Yi M (2014) LlHSFA1, a novel heat stress transcription factor in lily (Liliumlongiflorum), can interact with LlHSFA2 and enhance the thermotolerance of transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana. Plant Cell Rep 33(9):1519–1533CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Görlich D, Kutay U (1999) Transport between the cell nucleus and the cytoplasm. Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol 15:607–660CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Guo M, Liu JH, Ma X, Luo DX, Gong ZH, Lu MH (2016) The plant heat stress transcription factors (HSFs): structure, regulation, and function in response to abiotic stresses. Front Plant Sci 7:114PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  19. Harrison CJ, Bohm AA, Nelson HC (1994) Crystal structure of the DNA binding domain of the heat shock transcription factor. Science 263(5144):224–227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Heerklotz D, Döring P, Bonzelius F, Winkelhaus S, Nover L (2001) The balance of nuclear import and export determines the intracellular distribution and function of tomato heat stress transcription factor HsfA2. Mol Cell Biol 21:1759–1768CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hu XJ, Chen D, Lynne Mclntyre C, Fernanda Dreccer M, Zhang ZB, Drenth J, Kalaipandian S, Chang H, Xue GP (2018) Heat shock factor C2a serves as a proactive mechanism for heat protection in developing grains in wheat via an ABA-mediated regulatory pathway. Plant Cell Environ 41(1):79–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hwang SM, Kim DW, Woo MS, Jeong HS, Son YS, Akhter S, Choi GJ, Bahk JD (2014) Functional characterization of Arabidopsis HsfA6a as a heat-shock transcription factor under high salinity and dehydration conditions. Plant Cell Environ 37(5):1202–1222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ikeda M, Ohme-Takagi M (2009) A novel group of transcriptional repressors in Arabidopsis. Plant Cell Physiol 50:970–975CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Iranbakhsh A, Ardebili NO, Ardebili ZO, Shafaati M, Ghoranneviss M (2018) Non-thermal plasma induced expression of heat shock factor A4A and improved wheat (Triticumaestivum L.) growth and resistance against salt stress. Plasma Chem Plasma Process 38(1):29–44Google Scholar
  25. Jiang Y, Zheng Q, Chen L, Liang Y, Wu J (2018) Ectopic overexpression of maize heat shock transcription factor gene ZmHsf04 confers increased thermo and salt-stress tolerance in transgenic Arabidopsis. Acta Physiol Plant 40(1):9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kotak S, Port M, Ganguli A, Bicker F, Koskull−Döring V (2004) Characterization of C-terminal domains of Arabidopsis heat stress transcription factors (Hsfs) and identification of a new signature combination of plant class A Hsfs with AHA and NES motifs essential for activator function and intracellular localization. Plant J 39:98–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kumar RR, Goswami S, Singh K, Dubey K, Rai GK, Singh B, Singh S, Grover M, Mishra D, Kumar S, Bakshi S (2018) Characterization of novel heat-responsive transcription factor (TaHSFA6e) gene involved in regulation of heat shock proteins (HSPs)—a key member of heat stress-tolerance network of wheat. J Biotechnol 279:1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lang S, Liu X, Xue H, Li X, Wang X (2017) Functional characterization of BnHSFA4a as a heat shock transcription factor in controlling the re-establishment of desiccation tolerance in seeds. J Exp Bot 68(9):2361–2375CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Li Z, Zhang L, Wang A, Xu X, Li J (2013) Ectopic overexpression of SlHsfA3, a heat stress transcription factor from tomato, confers increased thermotolerance and salt hypersensitivity in germination in transgenic Arabidopsis. PLoS ONE 8(1):e54880CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Li HC, Zhang HN, Li GL, Liu ZH, Zhang YM, Zhang HM, Guo XL (2015) Expression of maize heat shock transcription factor gene ZmHsf06 enhances the thermotolerance and drought-stress tolerance of transgenic Arabidopsis. Funct Plant Biol 42(11):1080–1091CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Li F, Zhang H, Zhao H, Gao T, Song A, Jiang J, Chen F, Chen S (2018) Chrysanthemum CmHSFA 4 gene positively regulates salt stress tolerance in transgenic chrysanthemum. Plant Biotechnol J 16(7):1311–1321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Li GL, Zhang HN, Shao H, Wang GY, Zhang YY, Zhang YJ, Zhao LN, Guo XL, Sheteiwy MS (2019) ZmHsf05, a new heat shock transcription factor from Zea mays L. improves thermotolerance in Arabidopsis thaliana and rescues thermotolerance defects of the athsfa2 mutant. Plant Sci 283:375–384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Liu HC, Liao HT, Charang YY (2011) The role of class A1 heat shock factors (HSFA1s) in response to heat and other stresses in Arabidopsis. Plant Cell Environ 34(5):738–751CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Liu ZW, Wu ZJ, Li XH, Huang Y, Li H, Wang YX (2016) Identification, classification, and expression profiles of heat shock transcription factors in tea plant (Camellia sinensis) under temperature stress. Gene 576:52–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lohmann C, Eggers-Schumacher G, Wunderlich M, Schöffl F (2004) Two different heat shock transcription factors regulate immediate early expression of stress genes in Arabidopsis. Mol Genet Genomics 271:11–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Ma H, Wang C, Yang B, Cheng H, Wang Z, Mijiti A, Ren C, Qu G, Zhang H, Ma L (2016) CarHSFB2, a class B heat shock transcription factor, is involved in different developmental processes and various stress responses in chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.). Plant Mol Biol Rep 34(1):1–14Google Scholar
  37. Mishra SK, Tripp J, Winkelhaus S, Tschiersch B, Theres K, Nover L (2002) In the complex family of heat stress transcription factors, HsfA1 has a unique role as master regulator of thermotolerance in tomato. Genes Dev 16:1555–1567CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mittler R (2006) Abiotic stress, the field environment and stress combination. Trends Plant Sci 11(1):15–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Nakai A (1999) New aspects in the vertebrate heat stress factor system: HsfA3 and HsfA4. Cell Stress Chaperones 4:86–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Nover L, Scharf KD, Gagliardi D, Vergne P, Czarnecka-Verner E, Gurley WB (1996) The Hsf world: classification and properties of plant heat stress transcription factors. Cell Stress Chaperones 1:215–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Nover L, Bharti K, Döring P, Mishra SK, Ganguli A, Scharf KD (2001) Arabidopsis and the heat stress transcription factor world: how many heat stress transcription factors do we need? Cell Stress Chaperones 6(3):177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Ogawa D, Yamaguchi K, Nishiuchi T (2007) High-level overexpression of the Arabidopsis HsfA2 gene confers not only increased themotolerance but also salt/osmotic stress tolerance and enhanced callus growth. J Exp Bot 58:3373–3383CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Peng S, Zhu Z, Zhao K, Shi J, Yang Y, He M, Wang Y (2013) A novel heat shock transcription factor, VpHsf1, from Chinese wild Vitispseudoreticulata is involved in biotic and abiotic stresses. Plant Mol Biol Rep 31(1):240–247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pérez-Salamó I, Papdi C, Rigó G, Zsigmond L, Vilela B, Lumbreras V, Nagy I, Horváth B, Domoki M, Darula Z, Medzihradszky K (2014) The heat shock factor A4A confers salt tolerance and is regulated by oxidative stress and the mitogen-activated protein kinases MPK3 and MPK6. Plant Physiol 165(1):319–334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Personat JM, Tejedor-Cano J, Prieto-Dapena P, Almoguera C, Jordano J (2014) Co-overexpression of two heat shock factors results in enhanced seed longevity and in synergistic effects on seedling tolerance to severe dehydration and oxidative stress. BMC Plant Biol 14(1):56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Scharf KD, Berberich T, Ebersberger I, Nover L (2012) The plant heat stress transcription factor (Hsf) family: structure, function and evolution. Biochim Biophys Acta 1819:104–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Schmidt R, Schippers JH, Welker A, Mieulet D, Guiderdoni E, Mueller-Roeber B (2012) Transcription factor OsHsfC1b regulates salt tolerance and development in Oryza sativa ssp. japonica. AoB Plants:pls011Google Scholar
  48. Schramm F, Ganguli A, Kiehlmann E, Englich G, Walch D, von Koskull-Döring P (2006) The heat stress transcription factor HsfA2 serves as a regulatory amplifier of a subset of genes in the heat stress response in Arabidopsis. Plant Mol Biol 60(5):759–772Google Scholar
  49. Schultheiss J, Kunert O, Gase U, Scharf KD, Nover L, Rüterjans H (1996) Solution structure of the DNA-binding domain of the tomato heat-stress transcription factor HSF24. Eur J Biochem 236(3):911–921CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sewelam N, Oshima Y, Mitsuda N, Ohme-Takagi M (2014) A step towards understanding plant responses to multiple environmental stresses: a genome-wide study. Plant Cell Environ 37(9):2024–2035CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Shen Z, Ding M, Sun J, Deng S, Zhao R, Wang M, Ma X, Wang F, Zhang H, Qian Z, Hu Y (2013) Overexpression of PeHSF mediates leaf ROS homeostasis in transgenic tobacco lines grown under salt stress conditions. Plant Cell Tissue Organ Cult 115(3):299–308CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Shi H, Tan DX, Reiter RJ, Ye T, Yang F, Chan Z (2015) Melatonin induces class A1 heat-shock factors (HSFA1s) and their possible involvement of thermotolerance in Arabidopsis. J Pineal Res 58(3):335–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Shim D, Hwang JU, Lee J, Lee S, Choi Y, An G, Martinoia E, Lee Y (2009) Orthologs of the class A4 heat shock transcription factor HsfA4a confer cadmium tolerance in wheat and rice. Plant Cell 21(12):4031–4043CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Song C, Chung WS, Lim CO (2016) Overexpression of heat shock factor gene HsfA3 increases galactinol levels and oxidative stress tolerance in Arabidopsis. Mol Cells 39(6):477CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Song G, Yuan S, Wen X, Xie Z, Lou L, Hu B, Cai Q, Xu B (2018) Transcriptome analysis of Cd-treated switchgrass root revealed novel transcripts and the importance of HSF/HSP network in switchgrass Cd tolerance. Plant Cell Rep 37(11):1485–1497CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Vuister GW, Kim SJ, Wu C, Bax A (1994) NMR evidence for similarities between the DNA-binding regions of Drosophila melanogaster heat shock factor and the helix-turn-helix and HNF-3/forkhead families of transcription factors. Biochemistry 33(1):10–16Google Scholar
  57. Wang X, Huang W, Yang Z, Liu J, Huang B (2016) Transcriptional regulation of heat shock proteins and ascorbate peroxidase by CtHsfA2b from African bermudagrass conferring heat tolerance in Arabidopsis. Sci Rep 6:28021CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wang X, Huang W, Liu J, Yang Z, Huang B (2017) Molecular regulation and physiological functions of a novel FaHsfA2c cloned from tall fescue conferring plant tolerance to heat stress. Plant Biotechnol J 15(2):237–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wei Y, Liu G, Chang Y, He C, Shi H (2018) Heat shock transcription factor 3 regulates plant immune response through modulation of salicylic acid accumulation and signalling in cassava. Mol Plant Pathol 19(10):2209–2220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wu Z, Liang J, Wang C, Zhao X, Zhong X, Cao X, Li G, He J, Yi M (2018) Overexpression of lily HsfA3s in Arabidopsis confers increased thermotolerance and salt sensitivity via alterations in proline catabolism. J Exp Bot 69(8):2005–2021CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Xiang J, Ran J, Zou J, Zhou X, Liu A, Zhang X, Peng Y, Tang N, Luo G, Chen X (2013) Heat shock factor OsHsfB2b negatively regulates drought and salt tolerance in rice. Plant Cell Rep 32(11):1795–1806CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Xin H, Zhang H, Zhong X, Lian Q, Dong A, Cao L, Yi M, Cong R (2017) Over-expression of LlHsfA2b, a lily heat shock transcription factor lacking trans-activation activity in yeast, can enhance tolerance to heat and oxidative stress in transgenic Arabidopsis seedlings. Plant Cell Tissue Organ Cult 130(3):617–629CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Xue GP, Sadat S, Drenth J, McIntyre CL (2014) The heat shock factor family from Triticumaestivum in response to heat and other major abiotic stresses and their role in regulation of heat shock protein genes. J Exp Bot 65:539–557CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Yokotani N, Ichikawa T, Kondou Y, Matsui M, Hirochika H, Iwabuchi M, Oda K (2008) Expression of rice heat stress transcription factor OsHsfA2e enhances tolerance to environmental stresses in transgenic Arabidopsis. Planta 227(5):957–967CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Zhang L, Li Y, Xing D, Gao C (2009) Characterization of mitochondrial dynamics and subcellular localization of ROS reveal that HsfA2 alleviates oxidative damage caused by heat stress in Arabidopsis. J Exp Bot 60(7):2073–2091CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Zhang S, Xu ZS, Li P, Yang L, Wei Y, Chen M, Li L, Zhang G, Ma Y (2013) Overexpression of TaHSF3 in transgenic Arabidopsis enhances tolerance to extreme temperatures. Plant Mol Biol Rep 31(3):688–697CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Zhu B, Ye C, Lü H, Chen X, Chai G, Chen J, Wang C (2006) Identification and characterization of a novel heat shock transcription factor gene, GmHsfA1, in soybeans (Glycine max). J Plant Res 119(3):247–256Google Scholar
  68. Zhuang L, Cao W, Wang J, Yu J, Yang Z, Huang B (2018) Characterization and functional analysis of FaHsfC1b from Festucaarundinacea conferring heat tolerance in Arabidopsis. Int J Mol Sci 19(9):2702CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sonal Mishra
    • 1
  • Aksar Ali Chowdhary
    • 2
  • Shakti Mehrotra
    • 3
  • Vikas Srivastava
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.School of BiotechnologyUniversity of JammuJammuIndia
  2. 2.Department of BotanyCentral University of JammuSambaIndia
  3. 3.Department of BiotechnologyInstitute of Engineering and TechnologyLucknowIndia

Personalised recommendations