A molecular physiological review of vegetative desiccation tolerance in the resurrection plant Xerophyta viscosa (Baker)

Planta. 2015 Aug;242(2):407-26. doi: 10.1007/s00425-015-2320-6. Epub 2015 May 22.


Provides a first comprehensive review of integrated physiological and molecular aspects of desiccation tolerance Xerophyta viscosa. A synopsis of biotechnological studies being undertaken to improve drought tolerance in maize is given. Xerophyta viscosa (Baker) is a monocotyledonous resurrection plant from the family Vellociacea that occurs in summer-rainfall areas of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. It inhabits rocky terrain in exposed grasslands and frequently experiences periods of water deficit. Being a resurrection plant it tolerates the loss of 95% of total cellular water, regaining full metabolic competency within 3 days of rehydration. In this paper, we review some of the molecular and physiological adaptations that occur during various stages of dehydration of X. viscosa, these being functionally grouped into early and late responses, which might be relevant to the attainment of desiccation tolerance. During early drying (to 55% RWC) photosynthesis is shut down, there is increased presence and activity of housekeeping antioxidants and a redirection of metabolism to the increased formation of sucrose and raffinose family oligosaccharides. Other metabolic shifts suggest water replacement in vacuoles proposed to facilitate mechanical stabilization. Some regulatory processes observed include increased presence of a linker histone H1 variant, a Type 2C protein phosphatase, a calmodulin- and an ERD15-like protein. During the late stages of drying (to 10% RWC) there was increased expression of several proteins involved in signal transduction, and retroelements speculated to be instrumental in gene silencing. There was induction of antioxidants not typically found in desiccation-sensitive systems, classical stress-associated proteins (HSP and LEAs), proteins involved in structural stabilization and those associated with changes in various metabolite pools during drying. Metabolites accumulated in this stage are proposed, inter alia, to facilitate subcellular stabilization by vitrification process which can include glass- and ionic liquid formation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Biotechnology
  • Craterostigma / anatomy & histology
  • Craterostigma / classification
  • Craterostigma / genetics
  • Craterostigma / physiology*
  • Desiccation*
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Stress, Physiological