About this Research Topic
Abiotic stresses, such as excessive salinity and low water availability, have always presented major barriers to achieving high biomass and full yield potential in crops. Global climate change, with attendant increases in the severity of these abiotic stresses, will require directed adaptations of crop species on an unprecedented scale in order to sustain agricultural productivity. Current, and rapidly expanding, information on genome structure and function, primarily, but not exclusively, in model angiosperms, provides a starting point for a heightened understanding of genomic responses to drought and/or salt stress, within and across species. Furthermore, “extremophile” species, or ecotypes within species, that thrive in stressful environments have emerged in many plant families. These species or ecotypes present a rich potential resource for the identification of genes, processes, and pathways that confer superior stress resistance when compared with closely related species and/or ecotypes within a species.
Superior stress tolerance may be due to the nature of defense-related protein-coding genes, expanded gene families of stress proteins, or the “stress-readiness” of tolerant species and/or ecotypes. These adaptations may be due to stress-independent, constitutively higher expression of key ‘defense’ genes, the regulation of protein-coding genes through signaling networks, including the action of specific transcription factors, the role of post-transcriptional processes (such as alternative splicing, regulation by small RNAs, the action of non-coding RNAs), and combinations of these factors. The changes generate the diversity of phenotypes observed within, and among, species at a “macro” level, and/or in the functioning of individual proteins, such as membrane transporters that confer stress resistance, at a “micro” level. Articles and reviews on these topics, presenting new insights, gleaned from nuanced computationally-based analyses of data obtained using whole genome approaches, will be solicited. Systems biology approaches will receive special attention. The issue will contain reviews of what is already established in the areas of salt and/or drought resistance mechanisms, and tools for the analysis and visualization of response pathways, original research papers, and, finally, "visions for the future", devoted both to analytical tools, and to testable hypotheses concerning stress adaptation mechanisms.
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