Responses to Low Temperature and Adaptations to Freezing

  • Gareth J. Warren
Part of the Springer Handbook Series of Plant Ecophysiology book series (KLEC, volume 1)


Low temperature can be stressful to plants in two fundamentally different ways. One way is through the direct effects of low temperature on the properties and behaviour of biological molecules. This is called “chilling stress” and is the theoretical counterpart of heat stress. A priori we might expect a number of potentially damaging results, for example cold denaturation of proteins, metabolic imbalances due to differential effects of temperature on different enzymes’ function, and phase changes in membranes. In plants that are sensitive to chilling, evidence for such lesions has been sought and reported in an extensive literature (see reviews by Lyons, 1973; Graham and Patterson, 1982). There is broad agreement in the field that altered membrane behaviour is very important. Photoinhibition — a special case of metabolic imbalance — is also known to be an important component of chilling stress (Hayden and Baker, 1990), against which the photosynthetic cells of chilling-tolerant plants must be protected. Beside these two types of lesion, any other unifying principles of chilling stress — if they exist — are far from obvious.


Arabidopsis Thaliana Abscisic Acid Cold Acclimation Freezing Tolerance Chilling Stress 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gareth J. Warren
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological Sciences, Royal HollowayUniversity of LondonEgham, SurreyUK

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