In present times, the levels of ionizing radiation (IR) on the surface of Earth are relatively low, posing no high challenges for the survival of contemporary life forms. IR derives from natural sources and naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM), the nuclear industry, medical applications, and as a result of radiation disasters or nuclear tests. In the current review, we discuss modern sources of radioactivity, its direct and indirect effects on different plant species, and the scope of the radiation protection of plants. We present an overview of the molecular mechanisms of radiation responses in plants, which leads to a tempting conjecture of the evolutionary role of IR as a limiting factor for land colonization and plant diversification rates. The hypothesis-driven analysis of available plant genomic data suggests an overall DNA repair gene families’ depletion in land plants compared to ancestral groups, which overlaps with a decrease in levels of radiation exposure on the surface of Earth millions of years ago. The potential contribution of chronic IR as an evolutionary factor in combination with other environmental factors is discussed.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Plant Science