Trehalose: A sugar molecule involved in temperature stress management in plants

Ali Raza, Savita Bhardwaj, Md Atikur Rahman, Pedro García-Caparrós, Madiha Habib, Faisal Saeed, Sidra Charagh, Christine H. Foyer, Kadambot H.M. Siddique, Rajeev K. Varshney

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Trehalose (Tre) is a non-reducing disaccharide found in many species, including bacteria, fungi, invertebrates, yeast, and even plants, where it acts as an osmoprotectant, energy source, or protein/membrane protector. Despite relatively small amounts in plants, Tre concentrations increase following exposure to abiotic stressors. Trehalose-6-phosphate, a precursor of Tre, has regulatory functions in sugar metabolism, crop production, and stress tolerance. Among the various abiotic stresses, temperature extremes (heat or cold stress) are anticipated to impact crop production worldwide due to ongoing climate changes. Applying small amounts of Tre can mitigate negative physiological, metabolic, and molecular responses triggered by temperature stress. Trehalose also interacts with other sugars, osmoprotectants, amino acids, and phytohormones to regulate metabolic reprogramming that underpins temperature stress adaptation. Transformed plants expressing Tre-synthesis genes accumulate Tre and show improved stress tolerance. Genome-wide studies of Tre-encoding genes suggest roles in plant growth, development, and stress tolerance. This review discusses the functions of Tre in mitigating temperature stress—highlighting genetic engineering approaches to modify Tre metabolism, crosstalk, and interactions with other molecules—and in-silico approaches for identifying novel Tre-encoding genes in diverse plant species. We consider how this knowledge can be used to develop temperature-resilient crops essential for sustainable agriculture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalCrop Journal
Issue number1
Early online date2023
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024

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