We have examined the cold-induced enhancement of freezing tolerance and expression of cold-regulated (cor) genes in Arabidopsis thaliana (L.) Heynh (Landsberg 'erecta') and abscisic acid (ABA)-deficient (aba) and ABA-insensitive (abi) mutants derived from it. The results indicate that the abi mutations had no apparent effect on freezing tolerance, while the aba mutations did: cold-acclimated aba mutants were markedly impaired in freezing tolerance compared to wild-type plants. In addition, it was observed that non-frozen leaves from both control and cold-treated aba mutant plants were more ion-leaky than those from corresponding wild-type plants. These data are consistent with previous observations indicating that ABA levels can affect freezing tolerance. Whether ABA has a direct role in the enhancement of freezing tolerance that occurs during cold acclimation, however, is uncertain. Several studies have suggested that ABA might mediate certain changes in gene expression that occur during cold acclimation. Our data indicate that the ABA-induced expression of three ABA-regulated Arabidopsis cor genes was unaffected in the abi2, abi3, and aba-1 mutants, but was dramatically impaired in the abi1 mutant. Cold-regulated expression of all three cor genes, however, was nearly the same in wild-type and abi1 mutant plants. These data suggest that the cold-regulated and ABA-regulated expression of the three cor genes may be mediated through independent control mechanisms.