Comparative analysis of gene expression under cold acclimation, deacclimation and reacclimation in Arabidopsis



Cold acclimated plants show an elevated tolerance against subsequent cold stress. Such adaptation requires alterations in gene expression as well as physiological changes. We were interested in gene expression changes at the transcriptional level during adaptation processes. The patterns of transcriptional changes associated with cold acclimation, deacclimation and reacclimation in Arabidopsis leaves were characterized using the Coldstresschip. Gene expression profiles were further analyzed by ‘coexpressed gene sets’ using gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA). Genes involved in signal transduction through calcium, and cascades of kinases and transcription factor genes, were distinctively induced in the early response of cold acclimation. On the other hand, genes involved in antioxidation, cell wall biogenesis and sterol synthesis were upregulated in the late response of cold acclimation. After the removal of cold, the expression patterns of most genes rapidly returned to the original states. However, photosynthetic light-harvesting complex genes and lipid metabolism-related genes stayed upregulated in cold deacclimated plants compared to non-treated plants. It is also notable that many well-known cold-inducible genes are slightly induced in reacclimation and their expression remains at relatively low levels in cold reacclimation compared to the expression during the first cold acclimation. The results in this study show the dynamic nature of gene expression occurring during cold acclimation, deacclimation and reacclimation. Our results suggest that there is a memory of cold stress and that the ‘memory of cold stress’ is possibly due to elevated photosynthetic efficiency, modified lipid metabolism, increased calcium signaling, pre-existing defense protein made during first cold acclimation and/or modified signal transduction from pre-existing defense protein.