Proteome dynamics of cold-acclimating Rhododendron species contrasting in their freezing tolerance and thermonasty behavior

PLoS One. 2017 May 23;12(5):e0177389. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0177389. eCollection 2017.


To gain a better understanding of cold acclimation in rhododendron and in woody perennials in general, we used the 2D-DIGE technique to analyze the rhododendron proteome during the seasonal development of freezing tolerance. We selected two species varying in their cold acclimation ability as well as their thermonasty response (folding of leaves in response to low temperature). Proteins were extracted from leaves of non-acclimated (NA) and cold acclimated (CA) plants of the hardier thermonastic species, R. catawbiense (Cata.), and from leaves of cold acclimated plants of the less hardy, non-thermonastic R. ponticum (Pont.). All three protein samples (Cata.NA, Cata.CA, and Pont.CA) were labeled with different CyDyes and separated together on a single gel. Triplicate gels were run and protein profiles were compared resulting in the identification of 72 protein spots that consistently had different abundances in at least one pair-wise comparison. From the 72 differential spots, we chose 56 spots to excise and characterize further by mass spectrometry (MS). Changes in the proteome associated with the seasonal development of cold acclimation were identified from the Cata.CA-Cata.NA comparisons. Differentially abundant proteins associated with the acquisition of superior freezing tolerance and with the thermonastic response were identified from the Cata.CA-Pont.CA comparisons. Our results indicate that cold acclimation in rhododendron involves increases in abundance of several proteins related to stress (freezing/desiccation tolerance), energy and carbohydrate metabolism, regulation/signaling, secondary metabolism (possibly involving cell wall remodeling), and permeability of the cell membrane. Cold acclimation also involves decreases in abundance of several proteins involved in photosynthesis. Differences in freezing tolerance between genotypes can probably be attributed to observed differences in levels of proteins involved in these functions. Also differences in freezing tolerance may be attributed to higher levels of some constitutive protective proteins in Cata. than in Pont. that may be required to overcome freeze damage, such as glutathione peroxidase, glutamine synthetase, and a plastid-lipid-associated protein.

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization / physiology*
  • Freezing*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Plant Leaves / metabolism
  • Proteome*
  • Rhododendron / physiology*
  • Species Specificity
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization
  • Two-Dimensional Difference Gel Electrophoresis


  • Proteome

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.