Low temperature is one of the adverse environmental factors that most affects plant growth and development. Temperate plants have evolved the capacity to acquire chilling and freezing tolerance after being exposed to low-nonfreezing temperatures. This adaptive response, named cold acclimation, involves many physiological and biochemical changes that mainly rely on reprogramming gene expression. Currently, the best documented genetic pathway leading to gene induction under low temperature conditions is the one mediated by the Arabidopsis C-repeat/dehydration-responsive element binding factors (CBFs), a small family of three transcriptional activators (CBF1-3) that bind to the C-repeat/dehydration-responsive element, which is present in the promoters of many cold-responsive genes, and induce transcription. The CBF genes are themselves induced by cold. Different evidences indicate that the CBF transcriptional network plays a critical role in cold acclimation in Arabidopsis. In this review, recent advances on the regulation and function of CBF factors are provided and discussed.
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