Low temperature inhibits sucrose synthesis, leading to a phosphate-limitation of photosynthesis. We have used the Arabidopsis pho1-2 and pho2-1 mutants with decreased and increased shoot phosphate, respectively, to investigate whether low phosphate triggers cold acclimatization of photosynthetic carbon metabolism. Wild-type Arabidopsis, pho1-2 and pho2-1 were grown at 23°C and transferred to 5°C to investigate acclimatization in pre-existing leaves and in new leaves developing at 5°C. The development of frost tolerance and the accumulation of proline and sugars was unaltered or improved in pho1-2, and impaired in pho2-1. Sucrose phosphate synthase and cytoplasmic fructose-1,6-bisphosphatase activity and protein increase after transfer to 5°C. This increase was accentuated in pho1-2 and attenuated in pho2-1. RBCS and LHCB2 transcript levels decrease in pre-formed wild-type leaves after transfer to 5°C and recover in new leaves that develop at 5°C. The initial decrease was attenuated in pho1-2, and accentuated in pho2-1, where the recovery in new leaves was also suppressed. Rubisco activity increased in wild-type leaves that developed at 5°C. This increase was accentuated in pho1-2 and absent in pho2-1. NADP-glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase, plastidic fructose-1,6-bisphosphatase and aldolase activity increase relative to phosphoglycerate kinase, transketolase and phosphoribulokinase in wild-type leaves at 5°C. This shift was accentuated in pho1-2 and reversed in pho2-1. Transcript levels for COR genes increase transiently 1 day after transfer to 5°C but were very low in leaves that developed at 5°C in wild-type Arabidopsis, pho1-2 and pho2-1. We conclude that low phosphate plays an important role in triggering cold acclimatization of leaves, leading in particular to an increase of Rubisco expression, changes in other Calvin cycle enzymes to minimize sequestration of phosphate in metabolites, and increased expression of sucrose biosynthesis enzymes.