Feeling every bit of winter distributed temperature sensitivity in vernalization

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Temperature intrinsically influences all aspects of biochemical and biophysical processes. Organisms have therefore evolved strategies to buffer themselves against thermal perturbations. Many organisms also use temperature signals as cues to align behavior and development with certain seasons. These developmentally important thermosensory mechanisms have generally been studied in constant temperature conditions. However, environmental temperature is an inherently noisy signal, and it has been unclear how organisms reliably extract specific temperature cues from fluctuating temperature profiles. In this context, we discuss plant thermosensory responses, focusing on temperature sensing throughout vernalization in Arabidopsis. We highlight the many different timescales of sensing, which has led to the proposal of a distributed thermosensing paradigm. Within this paradigm, we suggest a classification system for thermosensors. Finally, we focus on the longest timescale, which is most important for sensing winter, and examine the different mechanisms in which memory of cold exposure can be achieved.