Friday, August 08, 2008

Interactions among Factors Regulating Phenological Development and Acclimation Rate Determine Low-temperature Tolerance in Wheat


Background and Aims Exposure to low temperatures (LT) produces innumerable changes in morphological, biochemical and physiological characteristics of plants, with the result that it has been difficult to separate cause and effect adjustments to LT. Phenotypic studies have shown that the LT-induced protective mechanisms in cereals are developmentally regulated and involve an acclimation process that can be stopped, reversed and restarted. The present study was initiated to separate the developmental factors determining duration from those responsible for rate of acclimation, to provide the opportunity for a more in depth analysis of the critical mechanisms that regulate LT tolerance in wheat (Triticum aestivum).
• Methods The non-hardy spring wheat cultivar ‘Manitou’ and the very cold-hardy winter wheat cultivar ‘Norstar’ were used to produce reciprocal near-isogenic lines (NILs) in which the vrn-A1 (winter) alleles of ‘Norstar’ were inserted into the non-hardy ‘Manitou’ genetic background and the Vrn-A1 (spring) alleles of ‘Manitou’ were inserted in the hardy ‘Norstar’ genetic background so that the effects of duration and rate of LT acclimation could be quantified.
• Key Results Comparison of the acclimation curves of the NILs and their parents grown at 2, 6 and 10 °C established that the full expression of LT-induced genetic systems was revealed only under genotypically dependent optimum combinations of time and temperature. Both duration and rate of acclimation were found to contribute significantly to the 13·8 °C difference in lowest survival temperature between ‘Norstar’ and ‘Manitou’.
• Conclusions Duration of LT acclimation was dependent upon the rate of phenological development, which, in turn, was determined by acclimation temperatures and vernalization requirements. Rate of acclimation was faster for genotypes with the ‘Norstar’ genetic background but the ability to sustain a high rate of acclimation was dependent upon the length of the vegetative stage. Complex time/temperature relationships and unexplained genetic interactions indicated that detailed functional genomic or phenomic analyses of natural allelic variation will be required to identify the critical genetic components of a highly integrated system, which is regulated by environmentally responsive, complex pathways.
Key words: Low-temperature tolerance, Vrn-A1, near-isogenic lines, developmental regulation, vernalization, cold acclimation, Triticum aestivum, wheat
D. B. FOWLER* and A. E. LIMIN, E-mail

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