Low temperature negatively affects plant growth and metabolism. Plant responses to cold involve massive transcriptional changes, and much effort has been made to identify these changes and their contribution to freezing tolerance. However, the influence of differences in environmental and developmental factors between experiments had not been investigated. We found that diurnal- and circadian-regulated genes are responsible for the majority of variation between experiments. Moreover, we demonstrated that the cyclic expression pattern of circadian clock components is affected by cold and that the cold induction of many transcription factors is dependent on the time of day. This means that genes identified so far as cold responsive are dependent on the time of day the experiment was performed and that paired diurnal controls are not sufficient to correct for this effect. Ongoing work to dissect the biological relevance of cold-diurnal regulatory interactions demonstrated that some circadian mutants have altered freezing tolerance but that time-of-day appears not to affect freezing tolerance.
Keywords: circadian clock; cold stress; cold-diurnal regulation; gating; transcription factors expression.