Journal Article

Systemic low temperature signaling in Arabidopsis

Peter A. Gorsuch, Alexander W. Sargeant, Steven D. Penfield, W. Paul Quick and Owen K. Atkin

in Plant and Cell Physiology

Published on behalf of Japanese Society of Plant Physiologists

Volume 51, issue 9, pages 1488-1498
Published in print September 2010 | ISSN: 0032-0781
Published online September 2010 | e-ISSN: 1471-9053 | DOI:
Systemic low temperature signaling in Arabidopsis

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  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular and Cell Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry


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When leaves are exposed to low temperature, sugars accumulate and transcription factors in the C-repeat binding factor (CBF) family are expressed, which, together with CBF-independent pathways, are known to contribute to the cold acclimation process and an increase in freezing tolerance. What is not known, however, is whether expression of these cold-regulated genes can be induced systemically in response to a localized cold treatment. To address this, pre-existing, mature leaves of warm-grown Arabidopsis thaliana were exposed to a localized cold treatment (near 10°C) whilst conjoined newly developing leaves continued only to experience warmer temperatures. In initial experiments on wild-type A. thaliana (Col-0) using real-time reverse transcription–PCR (RT–PCR) we observed that some genes—including CBF genes, certain downstream cold-responsive (COR) targets and CBF-independent transcription factors—respond to a direct 9°C treatment of whole plants. In subsequent experiments, we found that the treatment of expanded leaves with temperatures near 10°C can induce cold-associated genes in conjoined warm-maintained tissues. CBF1 showed a particularly strong systemic response, although CBF-independent transcription factors also responded. Moreover, the localized cold treatment of A. thaliana (C24) plants with a luciferase reporter fused to the promoter region of KIN2 indicated that in warm-maintained leaves, KIN2 might respond to a systemic signal from remote, directly cold-treated leaves. Collectively, our study provides strong evidence that the processes involved in cold acclimation are partially mediated by a signal that acts systemically. This has the potential to act as an early-warning system to enable developing leaves to cope better with the cold environment in which they are growing.

Keywords: Cold acclimation; Cold stress; C-repeat binding factor; KIN2; Leaf development; Systemic signaling

Journal Article.  6700 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Biochemistry ; Molecular and Cell Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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