Additional freeze hardiness in wheat acquired by exposure to -3°C is associated with extensive physiological, morphological, and molecular changes

Eliot M. Herman, Kelsi Rotter, Ramaswamy Premakumar, G. Elwinger, Rino Bae, Linda Ehler-King, Sixue Chen, David P. Livingston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Cold-acclimated plants acquire an additional 3-5°C increase in freezing tolerance when exposed to -3°C for 12-18 h before a freezing test (LT 50) is applied. The -3°C treatment replicates soil freezing that can occur in the days or weeks leading to overwintering by freezing-tolerant plants. This additional freezing tolerance is called subzero acclimation (SZA) to differentiate it from cold acclimation (CA) that is acquired at above-freezing temperatures. Using wheat as a model, results have been obtained indicating that SZA is accompanied by changes in physiology, cellular structure, the transcriptome, and the proteome. Using a variety of assays, including DNA arrays, reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), 2D gels with mass spectroscopic identification of proteins, and electron microscopy, changes were observed to occur as a consequence of SZA and the acquisition of added freezing tolerance. In contrast to CA, SZA induced the movement of intracellular water to the extracellular space. Many unknown and stress-related genes were upregulated by SZA including some with obvious roles in SZA. Many genes related to photosynthesis and plastids were downregulated. Changes resulting from SZA often appeared to be a loss of rather than an appearance of new proteins. From a cytological perspective, SZA resulted in alterations of organelle structure including the Golgi. The results indicate that the enhanced freezing tolerance of SZA is correlated with a wide diversity of changes, indicating that the additional freezing tolerance is the result of complex biological processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3601-3618
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Issue number14
StatePublished - Nov 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Aquaporin
  • Cold acclimation
  • DNA array
  • Electron microscopy
  • Freeze hardiness
  • Proteome
  • Proteomics
  • Transcriptome
  • Wheat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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