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Keywords:

  • lipidomics;
  • freezing tolerance;
  • cold acclimation;
  • natural variation;
  • Arabidopsis thaliana ;
  • storage lipids

Summary

Freezing injury is a major factor limiting the geographical distribution of plant species and the growth and yield of crop plants. Plants from temperate climates are able to increase their freezing tolerance during exposure to low but non-freezing temperatures in a process termed cold acclimation. Damage to cellular membranes is the major cause of freezing injury in plants, and membrane lipid composition is strongly modified during cold acclimation. Forward and reverse genetic approaches have been used to probe the role of specific lipid-modifying enzymes in the freezing tolerance of plants. In the present paper we describe an alternative ecological genomics approach that relies on the natural genetic variation within a species. Arabidopsis thaliana has a wide geographical range throughout the Northern Hemisphere with significant natural variation in freezing tolerance that was used for a comparative analysis of the lipidomes of 15 Arabidopsis accessions using ultra-performance liquid chromatography coupled to Fourier-transform mass spectrometry, allowing the detection of 180 lipid species. After 14 days of cold acclimation at 4°C the plants from most accessions had accumulated massive amounts of storage lipids, with most of the changes in long-chain unsaturated triacylglycerides, while the total amount of membrane lipids was only slightly changed. Nevertheless, major changes in the relative amounts of different membrane lipids were also evident. The relative abundance of several lipid species was highly correlated with the freezing tolerance of the accessions, allowing the identification of possible marker lipids for plant freezing tolerance.