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Keywords:

  • Arabidopsis;
  • CBF2;
  • ethylene;
  • leaf senescence;
  • stress

Abstract

The plant hormone ethylene affects myriad developmental processes ranging from seed germination to organ senescence, and plays a crucial role in plant resistance to environmental stresses. The C-repeat/dehydration-responsive element binding factor genes (CBF1–3) are transcriptional activators involved in plant low-temperatures responses; their overexpression enhances frost tolerance, but also has various pleiotropic effects on growth and development, mainly growth retardation and delay of flowering and senescence. We found that overexpression of CBF2 in Arabidopsis suppressed leaf tissue responsiveness to ethylene as compared with wild-type plants, as manifested in significantly delayed senescence and chlorophyll degradation. In wild-type plants, exposure to ethylene at 0.1 μl·l−1 for 48 h caused 50% reduction in chlorophyll levels as compared to leaves held in air alone, whereas CBF2-overexpressing plants required an ethylene concentration of 10.0 μl·l−1 to cause the same effect. Furthermore, continuous exposure to ethylene at 1.0 μl·l−1 reduced chlorophyll content in wild-type leaves by 50% after 42 h but took 72 h in CBF2-overexpressing plants. Transcript profiling of ethylene receptors and signal transduction genes in leaves of wild-type and CBF2-overexpressing plants, by means of the Affymetrix ATH1 genome array, revealed only minor differences in gene expression patterns – insufficient to explain the observed responsiveness differences. Nevertheless, we found that overexpression of CBF2 significantly increased transcript levels of 17 ABA biosynthetic and responsive genes and, thus, may have affected leaf responsiveness to ethylene via contrasting interactions with other hormones, mainly ABA. Overall, the current findings suggest that overexpression of the CBF2 transcriptional activator in Arabidopsis may, at least in part, contribute to the observed delay of leaf senescence and enhanced plant fitness by suppressing leaf responsiveness to stress-regulated ethylene.