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PloS one

Comparative proteomics analyses of Kobresia pygmaea adaptation to environment along an elevational gradient on the central Tibetan Plateau.


PMID 24887403

Abstract

Variations in elevation limit the growth and distribution of alpine plants because multiple environmental stresses impact plant growth, including sharp temperature shifts, strong ultraviolet radiation exposure, low oxygen content, etc. Alpine plants have developed special strategies to help survive the harsh environments of high mountains, but the internal mechanisms remain undefined. Kobresia pygmaea, the dominant species of alpine meadows, is widely distributed in the Southeastern Tibet Plateau, Tibet Autonomous Region, China. In this study, we mainly used comparative proteomics analyses to investigate the dynamic protein patterns for K. pygmaea located at four different elevations (4600, 4800, 4950 and 5100 m). A total of 58 differentially expressed proteins were successfully detected and functionally characterized. The proteins were divided into various functional categories, including material and energy metabolism, protein synthesis and degradation, redox process, defense response, photosynthesis, and protein kinase. Our study confirmed that increasing levels of antioxidant and heat shock proteins and the accumulation of primary metabolites, such as proline and abscisic acid, conferred K. pygmaea with tolerance to the alpine environment. In addition, the various methods K. pygmaea used to regulate material and energy metabolism played important roles in the development of tolerance to environmental stress. Our results also showed that the way in which K. pygmaea mediated stomatal characteristics and photosynthetic pigments constitutes an enhanced adaptation to alpine environmental stress. According to these findings, we concluded that K. pygmaea adapted to the high-elevation environment on the Tibetan Plateau by aggressively accumulating abiotic stress-related metabolites and proteins and by the various life events mediated by proteins. Based on the species'lexible physiological and biochemical processes, we surmised that environment change has only a slight impact on K. pygmaea except for possible impacts to populations on vulnerable edges of the species' range.