Shade tolerance: When growing tall is not an option

Charlotte M.M. Gommers, Eric J.W. Visser, Kate R. St Onge, Laurentius A.C.J. Voesenek, Ronald Pierik*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

325 Citations (Scopus)


Two different plant strategies exist to deal with shade: shade avoidance and shade tolerance. All shade-exposed plants optimize photosynthesis to adapt to the decrease in light quality and quantity. When shaded, most species in open habitats express the shade-avoidance syndrome, a growth response to escape shade. Shade-tolerant species from forest understories cannot outgrow surrounding trees and adopt a tolerance response. Unlike shade avoidance, virtually nothing is known about regulation of shade tolerance. In this opinion article, we discuss potential modes of molecular regulation to adopt a shade-tolerance rather than a shade-avoidance strategy. We argue that molecular approaches using model and non-model species should help identify the molecular pathways that underpin shade tolerance, thus providing knowledge for further crop improvement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-71
Number of pages7
JournalTrends in Plant Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes


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