Phenotypic and metabolic plasticity shapes life-history strategies under combinations of abiotic stresses

Lidor Shaar-Moshe, Ruchama Hayouka, Ute Roessner, Zvi Peleg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Plants developed various reversible and non-reversible acclimation mechanisms to cope with the multifaceted nature of abiotic-stress combinations. We hypothesized that in order to endure these stress combinations, plants elicit distinctive acclimation strategies through specific trade-offs between reproduction and defense. To investigate Brachypodium distachyon acclimation strategies to combinations of salinity, drought and heat, we applied a system biology approach, integrating physiological, metabolic, and transcriptional analyses. We analyzed the trade-offs among functional and performance traits, and their effects on plant fitness. A combination of drought and heat resulted in escape strategy, while under a combination of salinity and heat, plants exhibited an avoidance strategy. On the other hand, under combinations of salinity and drought, with or without heat stress, plant fitness (i.e., germination rate of subsequent generation) was severely impaired. These results indicate that under combined stresses, plants’ life-history strategies were shaped by the limits of phenotypic and metabolic plasticity and the trade-offs between traits, thereby giving raise to distinct acclimations. Our findings provide a mechanistic understanding of plant acclimations to combinations of abiotic stresses and shed light on the different life-history strategies that can contribute to grass fitness and possibly to their dispersion under changing environments.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere00113
JournalPlant Direct
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank A. Oksenberg, I. Vilan, I. Ayalon and I. Sabag for their technical assistance with the physiological experiments and N. Jayasinghe for analysis of metabolic samples. GC‐ MS analysis was carried out at Metabolomics Australia, School of BioSciences, University of Melbourne, which is supported by funds from the Australian Government's National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Scheme (NCRIS) administered through Bioplatforms Australia (BPA) Ltd. This research partially supported by the United States‐Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF) (grant #2011310) and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. LSM is indebted to the Israeli President's Scholarship for Scientific Excellence and Innovation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Authors. Plant Direct published by American Society of Plant Biologists, Society for Experimental Biology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • Brachypodium
  • abiotic-stress combinations
  • fitness
  • life-history strategy
  • metabolomics
  • physiology
  • trade-off
  • transcriptomics


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