The impact of multifactorial stress combination on plant growth and survival

Sara I. Zandalinas, Soham Sengupta, Felix B. Fritschi, Rajeev K. Azad, Rachel Nechushtai, Ron Mittler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


Climate change-driven extreme weather events, combined with increasing temperatures, harsh soil conditions, low water availability and quality, and the introduction of many man-made pollutants, pose a unique challenge to plants. Although our knowledge of the response of plants to each of these individual conditions is vast, we know very little about how a combination of many of these factors, occurring simultaneously, that is multifactorial stress combination, impacts plants. Seedlings of wild-type and different mutants of Arabidopsis thaliana plants were subjected to a multifactorial stress combination of six different stresses, each applied at a low level, and their survival, physiological and molecular responses determined. Our findings reveal that, while each of the different stresses, applied individually, had a negligible effect on plant growth and survival, the accumulated impact of multifactorial stress combination on plants was detrimental. We further show that the response of plants to multifactorial stress combination is unique and that specific pathways and processes play a critical role in the acclimation of plants to multifactorial stress combination. Taken together our findings reveal that further polluting our environment could result in higher complexities of multifactorial stress combinations that in turn could drive a critical decline in plant growth and survival.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1034-1048
Number of pages15
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

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©2021 The Authors New Phytologist ©2021 New Phytologist Trust


  • Arabidopsis thaliana
  • abiotic stress
  • climate change
  • global warming
  • multifactorial stress combination
  • reactive oxygen species (ROS)
  • stress combination
  • transcriptomics


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