• Open Access

The Vitis vinifera C-repeat binding protein 4 (VvCBF4) transcriptional factor enhances freezing tolerance in wine grape


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Chilling and freezing can reduce significantly vine survival and fruit set in Vitis vinifera wine grape. To overcome such production losses, a recently identified grapevine C-repeat binding factor (CBF) gene, VvCBF4, was overexpressed in grape vine cv. ‘Freedom’ and found to improve freezing survival and reduced freezing-induced electrolyte leakage by up to 2 °C in non-cold-acclimated vines. In addition, overexpression of this transgene caused a reduced growth phenotype similar to that observed for CBF overexpression in Arabidopsis and other species. Both freezing tolerance and reduced growth phenotypes were manifested in a transgene dose-dependent manner. To understand the mechanistic basis of VvCBF4 transgene action, one transgenic line (9–12) was genotyped using microarray-based mRNA expression profiling. Forty-seven and 12 genes were identified in unstressed transgenic shoots with either a >1.5-fold increase or decrease in mRNA abundance, respectively. Comparison of mRNA changes with characterized CBF regulons in woody and herbaceous species revealed partial overlaps, suggesting that CBF-mediated cold acclimation responses are widely conserved. Putative VvCBF4-regulon targets included genes with functions in cell wall structure, lipid metabolism, epicuticular wax formation and stress-responses suggesting that the observed cold tolerance and dwarf phenotypes are the result of a complex network of diverse functional determinants.