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Durham University

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Publication details for Professor Marc Knight

Oakenfull, Rachael J., Baxter, Robert & Knight, Marc R. (2013). A C-Repeat Binding Factor Transcriptional Activator (CBF/DREB1) from European Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) Induces Freezing Tolerance When Expressed in Arabidopsis thaliana. PLoS ONE 8(1): e54119.

Author(s) from Durham


Freezing stress affects all plants from temperate zones to the poles. Global climate change means such freezing events are becoming less predictable. This in turn reduces the ability of plants to predict the approaching low temperatures and cold acclimate. This has consequences for crop yields and distribution of wild plant species. C-repeat binding factors (CBFs) are transcription factors previously shown to play a vital role in the acclimation process of Arabidopsis thaliana, controlling the expression of hundreds of genes whose products are necessary for freezing tolerance. Work in other plant species cements CBFs as key determinants in the trait of freezing tolerance in higher plants. To test the function of CBFs from highly freezing tolerant plants species we cloned and sequenced CBF transcription factors from three Vaccinium species (Vaccinium myrtillus, Vaccinium uliginosum and Vaccinium vitis-idaea) which we collected in the Arctic. We tested the activity of CBF transcription factors from the three Vaccinium species by producing transgenic Arabidopsis lines overexpressing them. Only the Vaccinium myrtillus CBF was able to substantially activate COR (CBF-target) gene expression in the absence of cold. Correspondingly, only the lines expressing the Vaccinium myrtillus CBF were constitutively freezing tolerant. The basis for the differences in potency of the three Vaccinium CBFs was tested by observing cellular localisation and protein levels. All three CBFs were correctly targeted to the nucleus, but Vaccinium uliginosum CBF appeared to be relatively unstable. The reasons for lack of potency for Vaccinium vitis-idaea CBF were not due to stability or targeting, and we speculate that this was due to altered transcription factor function.