Root carbon and protein metabolism associated with heat tolerance

Bingru Huang, Shimon Rachmilevitch, Jichen Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Extensive past efforts have been taken toward understanding heat tolerance mechanisms of the aboveground organs. Root systems play critical roles in whole-plant adaptation to heat stress, but are less studied. This review discusses recent research results revealing some critical physiological and metabolic factors underlying root thermotolerance, with a focus on temperate perennial grass species. Comparative analysis of differential root responses to supraoptimal temperatures by a heat-adapted temperate C3 species, Agrostis scabra, which can survive high soil temperatures up to 45 °C in geothermal areas in Yellow Stone National Park, and a heat-sensitive cogeneric species, Agrostis stolonifera, suggested that efficient carbon and protein metabolism is critical for root thermotolerance. Superior root thermotolerance in a perennial grass was associated with a greater capacity to control respiratory costs through respiratory acclimation, lowering carbon investment in maintenance for protein turnover, and efficiently partitioning carbon into different metabolic pools and alternative respiration pathways. Proteomic analysis demonstrated that root thermotolerance was associated with an increased maintenance of stability and less degradation of proteins, particularly those important for metabolism and energy production. In addition, thermotolerant roots are better able to maintain growth and activity during heat stress by activating stress defence proteins such as those participating in antioxidant defence (i.e. superoxide dismutase, peroxidase, glutathione S-transferase) and chaperoning protection (i.e. heat shock protein).

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)3455-3465
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 May 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Carbohydrate
  • Proteins
  • Respiration
  • Root growth
  • Root mortality

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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