We review the role of a family of transcription factors and their regulons in maintaining high photosynthetic performance across a range of challenging environments with a focus on extreme temperatures and water availability. Specifically, these transcription factors include CBFs (C-repeat binding factors) and DREBs (dehydration-responsive element-binding), with CBF/DREB1 primarily orchestrating cold adaptation and other DREBs serving in heat, drought, and salinity adaptation. The central role of these modulators in plant performance under challenging environments is based on (i) interweaving of these regulators with other key signaling networks (plant hormones and redox signals) as well as (ii) their function in integrating responses across the whole plant, from light-harvesting and sugar-production in the leaf to foliar sugar export and water import and on to the plant’s sugar-consuming sinks (growth, storage, and reproduction). The example of Arabidopsis thaliana
ecotypes from geographic origins with contrasting climates is used to describe the links between natural genetic variation in CBF transcription factors and the differential acclimation of plant anatomical and functional features needed to support superior photosynthetic performance in contrasting environments. Emphasis is placed on considering different temperature environments (hot versus cold) and light environments (limiting versus high light), on trade-offs between adaptations to contrasting environments, and on plant lines minimizing such trade-offs.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited