Arabidopsis thaliana is a geographically widely spread species consisting of local accessions differing both genetically and phenotypically. These differences may constitute environmental adaptations and a latitudinal cline in freezing tolerance has been shown previously. Many plants, including Arabidopsis, exhibit increased freezing tolerance after cold exposure (cold acclimation). Here we present evidence for geographical clines (both latitudinal and longitudinal) in acclimated (ACC) and non-acclimated (NA) freezing tolerance, estimated from electrolyte leakage measurements on 54 accessions. Leaf Pro contents were not correlated with freezing tolerance, while sugar contents (Glc, Fru, Suc, Raf) were in the ACC, but not the NA state. Expression levels of 14 cold-induced genes were investigated before and after 2 weeks of cold acclimation by quantitative RT-PCR. Expression of the CBF1, 2 and 3 genes was not correlated with freezing tolerance. The expression of some CBF-regulated (COR) genes, however, was correlated specifically with ACC freezing tolerance. A tight correlation between CBF and COR gene expression was only observed under non-acclimating conditions, where CBF and COR expression were also correlated with the expression of PRR5, a component of the circadian clock. Collectively, this study sheds new light on the molecular determinants of plant-freezing tolerance and cold acclimation and their geographical dependence.
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