Heat Shock Signaling in Land Plants: From Plasma Membrane Sensing to the Transcription of Small Heat Shock Proteins

Front Plant Sci. 2021 Aug 9;12:710801. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2021.710801. eCollection 2021.


Heat stress events are major factors limiting crop productivity. During summer days, land plants must anticipate in a timely manner upcoming mild and severe temperature. They respond by accumulating protective heat-shock proteins (HSPs), conferring acquired thermotolerance. All organisms synthetize HSPs; many of which are members of the conserved chaperones families. This review describes recent advances in plant temperature sensing, signaling, and response. We highlight the pathway from heat perception by the plasma membrane through calcium channels, such as cyclic nucleotide-gated channels, to the activation of the heat-shock transcription factors (HSFs). An unclear cellular signal activates HSFs, which act as essential regulators. In particular, the HSFA subfamily can bind heat shock elements in HSP promoters and could mediate the dissociation of bound histones, leading to HSPs transcription. Although plants can modulate their transcriptome, proteome, and metabolome to protect the cellular machinery, HSP chaperones prevent, use, and revert the formation of misfolded proteins, thereby avoiding heat-induced cell death. Remarkably, the HSP20 family is mostly tightly repressed at low temperature, suggesting that a costly mechanism can become detrimental under unnecessary conditions. Here, the role of HSP20s in response to HS and their possible deleterious expression at non-HS temperatures is discussed.

Keywords: acquired thermotolerance; calmodulins; cyclic nucleotide-gated channels; global warming; heat shock response; heat shock transcription factor; heat stress; small heat-shock proteins.

Publication types

  • Review