Natural variation in temperature-modulated immunity uncovers transcription factor bHLH059 as a thermoresponsive regulator in Arabidopsis thaliana

PLoS Genet. 2021 Jan 25;17(1):e1009290. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1009290. eCollection 2021 Jan.


Temperature impacts plant immunity and growth but how temperature intersects with endogenous pathways to shape natural variation remains unclear. Here we uncover variation between Arabidopsis thaliana natural accessions in response to two non-stress temperatures (22°C and 16°C) affecting accumulation of the thermoresponsive stress hormone salicylic acid (SA) and plant growth. Analysis of differentially responding A. thaliana accessions shows that pre-existing SA provides a benefit in limiting infection by Pseudomonas syringae pathovar tomato DC3000 bacteria at both temperatures. Several A. thaliana genotypes display a capacity to mitigate negative effects of high SA on growth, indicating within-species plasticity in SA-growth tradeoffs. An association study of temperature x SA variation, followed by physiological and immunity phenotyping of mutant and over-expression lines, identifies the transcription factor bHLH059 as a temperature-responsive SA immunity regulator. Here we reveal previously untapped diversity in plant responses to temperature and a way forward in understanding the genetic architecture of plant adaptation to changing environments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics*
  • Arabidopsis / immunology
  • Arabidopsis / physiology
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / immunology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / drug effects
  • Plant Diseases / genetics
  • Plant Diseases / immunology
  • Plant Immunity / genetics*
  • Plant Leaves / genetics
  • Plant Leaves / growth & development
  • Pseudomonas syringae / genetics
  • Salicylic Acid / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Temperature
  • Thermosensing / genetics*
  • Thermosensing / immunology
  • Transcription Factors / genetics


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Salicylic Acid

Grants and funding

The study was financed by the Cluster of Excellence on Plant Science grant EXC-2048/1, Project 390686111 ( and F.B. was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation grant PBLAP3-142776 ( The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.