Cold stress is a major environmental factor that limits plant growth and development. The C-repeat-binding factor (CBF)-dependent cold signaling pathway is extensively studied in Arabidopsis; however, the specific protein kinases involved in this pathway remain elusive. Here we report that OST1 (open stomata 1), a well-known Ser/Thr protein kinase in ABA signaling, acts upstream of CBFs to positively regulate freezing tolerance. The ost1 mutants show freezing hypersensitivity, whereas transgenic plants overexpressing OST1 exhibit enhanced freezing tolerance. The OST1 kinase is activated by cold stress. Moreover, OST1 interacts with both the transcription factor ICE1 and the E3 ligase HOS1 in the CBF pathway. Cold-activated OST1 phosphorylates ICE1 and enhances its stability and transcriptional activity. Meanwhile, OST1 interferes with the interaction between HOS1 and ICE1, thus suppressing HOS1-mediated ICE1 degradation under cold stress. Our results thus uncover the unexpected roles of OST1 in modulating CBF-dependent cold signaling in Arabidopsis.
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