The regulation of the majority of cold-regulated genes in plants is mediated by CBF (C-repeat binding factors) transcription factor family. Natural differences in frost tolerance (FT) of wheat have been mapped to the Fr-2 (Frost Resistance-2) locus on chromosome group 5 and are associated with variation in threshold induction temperatures and/or transcript levels of CBF genes.
This study used real-time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) to compare the relative expression levels of four T. aestivum CBF genes (TaCBF15.2, TaCBFA19, TaCBFA2 and TaCBFD21) in crown tissue of two Bulgarian hexaploid winter wheat cultivars (Milena and Russalka) with distinct levels of low-temperature (LT) tolerance but same vernalization requirement, and the spring cultivar Chinese Spring.
The transcription profiles of the selected TaCBF genes showed that they are induced by cold treatment at 2 °C. Analysis of transcript abundance revealed that the four TaCBF genes were expressed at higher levels in the frost tolerant Milena than in the susceptible Russalka. Largest differences (fivefold and fourfold) in expression levels between both winter cultivars were observed in two of the analysed genes, TaCBF15.2 and TaCBFA19, respectively. The higher steady-state expression levels of TaCBF genes before the onset of the LT treatment in Milena, combined with stronger induction by cold treatment, suggest that these molecular responses to LT are associated with superior FT development capacity.
The results expand our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying LT acclimation in Bulgarian wheat and can be used for development of functional markers for improvement of FT wheat-breeding programmes.
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