Transcriptome profiling of Malus sieversii under freezing stress after being cold-acclimated

BMC Genomics. 2021 Sep 21;22(1):681. doi: 10.1186/s12864-021-07998-0.


Background: Freezing temperatures are an abiotic stress that has a serious impact on plant growth and development in temperate regions and even threatens plant survival. The wild apple tree (Malus sieversii) needs to undergo a cold acclimation process to enhance its freezing tolerance in winter. Changes that occur at the molecular level in response to low temperatures are poorly understood in wild apple trees.

Results: Phytohormone and physiology profiles and transcriptome analysis were used to elaborate on the dynamic response mechanism. We determined that JA, IAA, and ABA accumulated in the cold acclimation stage and decreased during freezing stress in response to freezing stress. To elucidate the molecular mechanisms of freezing stress after cold acclimation, we employed single molecular real-time (SMRT) and RNA-seq technologies to study genome-wide expression profiles in wild apple. Using the PacBio and Illumina platform, we obtained 20.79G subreads. These reads were assembled into 61,908 transcripts, and 24,716 differentially expressed transcripts were obtained. Among them, 4410 transcripts were differentially expressed during the whole process of freezing stress, and these were examined for enrichment via GO and KEGG analyses. Pathway analysis indicated that "plant hormone signal transduction", "starch and sucrose metabolism", "peroxisome" and "photosynthesis" might play a vital role in wild apple responses to freezing stress. Furthermore, the transcription factors DREB1/CBF, MYC2, WRKY70, WRKY71, MYB4 and MYB88 were strongly induced during the whole stress period.

Conclusions: Our study presents a global survey of the transcriptome profiles of wild apple trees in dynamic response to freezing stress after two days cold acclimation and provides insights into the molecular mechanisms of freezing adaptation of wild apple plants for the first time. The study also provides valuable information for further research on the antifreezing reaction mechanism and genetic improvement of M. sieversii after cold acclimation.

Keywords: Freezing stress; Malus sieversii; Photosynthesis; Plant hormone signal transduction; Sugar and starch metabolism; Transcription factor.

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization / genetics
  • Cold Temperature
  • Freezing
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Malus* / genetics
  • Transcriptome