Systems Biology Approaches to Improve Drought Stress Tolerance in Plants: State of the Art and Future Challenges

  • José Ricardo Parreira
  • Diana Branco
  • André M. Almeida
  • Anna Czubacka
  • Monika Agacka-Mołdoch
  • Jorge A. P. Paiva
  • Filipe Tavares-Cadete
  • Susana de Sousa AraújoEmail author


Drought stress induces a vast array of responses in plants that require the use of integrative and multidisciplinary approaches to understand the different levels of regulation. Holistic systems biology approaches still remain unexploited, which is especially important for plant and agricultural sciences. Given the increasing development of high-throughput genomic tools and concomitant progress on plant genome sequencing, it is now possible to gain quantitative information at a comprehensive scale and a quantitative overview on the gene-to-metabolite networks that are associated with a particular plant phenotype. Systems biology aims to find regulatory mechanisms controlling gene expression, to identify candidate genes and molecular markers to support promissory strategies to engineer and/or breed plants with desired traits such as enhanced quality. Most of the systems biology approaches rely upon three main axes representing the multiple layers of the regulation of gene expression: transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics. Coupled with the study of the noncoding genome, new insights into the regulation of gene expression are being provided as well as their effects on the phenotypic changes in a specific biological context. Bioinformatics tools have been crucial in omics-based research to manage genome-wide datasets, extract valuable information, and facilitate knowledge exchange between model and crop species. The present chapter reviews the use of system biology approaches undertaken to understand drought stress response in plants, providing a critical discussion on the constraints and future prospects of using these approaches to address the current needs of agriculture in a context of climate change.


Bioinformatics Crops MicroRNAs Metabolomics Proteomics Transcriptomics 



The financial support from Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (Lisbon, Portugal) is acknowledged through research projects (PTDC/AGR-TEC/3555/2012 and PTDC/AGR-GPL/110244/2009), research unit GREEN-it “Bioresources for Sustainability” (UID/Multi/04551/2013), JRP Plants for Life PhD grant (PD/BD/113474/2015), DB PhD grant (SFRH/BD/82283/2011) and SSA Post-Doctoral Grant (SFRH/BPD/108032/2015).

JAPP acknowledges the research contract in the framework of the EU BIO-TALENT (The Creation of the Department of Integrative Plant Biology) project submitted under FP7-ERAChairs-Pilot Call-2013 (Grant agreement n°621321).

SSA acknowledges the research contract in frame of the project “Advanced Priming Technologies for the Lombardy Agro-Seed Industry-PRIMTECH” (Action 3, Code 2013-1727) sponsored by CARIPLO foundation and Regione Lombardia, Italy.

The authors JRP, DB, JAPP, and SSA are members of COST action FA 1306—“The quest for tolerant varieties—Phenotyping at plant and cellular level” to which networking support is acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • José Ricardo Parreira
    • 1
  • Diana Branco
    • 1
  • André M. Almeida
    • 2
  • Anna Czubacka
    • 3
  • Monika Agacka-Mołdoch
    • 3
  • Jorge A. P. Paiva
    • 4
  • Filipe Tavares-Cadete
    • 5
  • Susana de Sousa Araújo
    • 1
    • 6
    Email author
  1. 1.Plant Cell Biotechnology LaboratoryInstituto de Tecnologia Química e Biológica (ITQB NOVA) - Universidade Nova de LisboaOeirasPortugal
  2. 2.Ross University School of Veterinary MedicineBasseterreSaint Kitts and Nevis
  3. 3.Department of Plant Breeding and BiotechnologyInstitute of Soil Science and Plant Cultivation—State Research InstitutePuławyPoland
  4. 4.Department of Integrative Plant BiologyInstitute of Plant Genetics, Polish Academy of SciencesPoznanPoland
  5. 5.Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate UniversityOnnaJapan
  6. 6.Plant Biotechnology Laboratory, Department of Biology and Biotechnology ‘L. Spallanzani’Università Degli Studi Di PaviaPaviaItaly

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