Phenotypic diversity and altered environmental plasticity in Arabidopsis thaliana with reduced Hsp90 levels

PLoS One. 2007 Jul 25;2(7):e648. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0000648.


The molecular chaperone HSP90 aids the maturation of a diverse but select set of metastable protein clients, many of which are key to a variety of signal transduction pathways. HSP90 function has been best investigated in animal and fungal systems, where inhibition of the chaperone has exceptionally diverse effects, ranging from reversing oncogenic transformation to preventing the acquisition of drug resistance. Inhibition of HSP90 in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana uncovers novel morphologies dependent on normally cryptic genetic variation and increases stochastic variation inherent to developmental processes. The biochemical activity of HSP90 is strictly conserved between animals and plants. However, the substrates and pathways dependent on HSP90 in plants are poorly understood. Progress has been impeded by the necessity of reliance on light-sensitive HSP90 inhibitors due to redundancy in the A. thaliana HSP90 gene family. Here we present phenotypic and genome-wide expression analyses of A. thaliana with constitutively reduced HSP90 levels achieved by RNAi targeting. HSP90 reduction affects a variety of quantitative life-history traits, including flowering time and total seed set, increases morphological diversity, and decreases the developmental stability of repeated characters. Several morphologies are synergistically affected by HSP90 and growth temperature. Genome-wide expression analyses also suggest a central role for HSP90 in the genesis and maintenance of plastic responses. The expression results are substantiated by examination of the response of HSP90-reduced plants to attack by caterpillars of the generalist herbivore Trichoplusia ni. HSP90 reduction potentiates a more robust herbivore defense response. In sum, we propose that HSP90 exerts global effects on the environmental responsiveness of plants to many different stimuli. The comprehensive set of HSP90-reduced lines described here is a vital instrument to further examine the role of HSP90 as a central interface between organism, development, and environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arabidopsis / genetics*
  • Arabidopsis / parasitology
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics
  • Environment
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Genetic Variation*
  • HSP90 Heat-Shock Proteins / genetics*
  • Lepidoptera / genetics
  • Lepidoptera / pathogenicity
  • Phenotype
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / genetics
  • RNA, Plant / genetics


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • HSP90 Heat-Shock Proteins
  • RNA, Double-Stranded
  • RNA, Plant