PLANT COLD ACCLIMATION: Freezing Tolerance Genes and Regulatory Mechanisms

Annu Rev Plant Physiol Plant Mol Biol. 1999 Jun;50:571-599. doi: 10.1146/annurev.arplant.50.1.571.


Many plants increase in freezing tolerance upon exposure to low nonfreezing temperatures, a phenomenon known as cold acclimation. In this review, recent advances in determining the nature and function of genes with roles in freezing tolerance and the mechanisms involved in low temperature gene regulation and signal transduction are described. One of the important conclusions to emerge from these studies is that cold acclimation includes the expression of certain cold-induced genes that function to stabilize membranes against freeze-induced injury. In addition, a family of Arabidopsis transcription factors, the CBF/DREB1 proteins, have been identified that control the expression of a regulon of cold-induced genes that increase plant freezing tolerance. These results along with many of the others summarized here further our understanding of the basic mechanisms that plants have evolved to survive freezing temperatures. In addition, the findings have potential practical applications as freezing temperatures are a major factor limiting the geographical locations suitable for growing crop and horticultural plants and periodically account for significant losses in plant productivity.