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Plant Cell. 2013 Jan;25(1):342-56. doi: 10.1105/tpc.112.108340. Epub 2013 Jan 31.

A DEAD box RNA helicase is critical for pre-mRNA splicing, cold-responsive gene regulation, and cold tolerance in Arabidopsis.

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  • 1Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA.


Cold stress resulting from chilling and freezing temperatures substantially reduces crop production worldwide. To identify genes critical for cold tolerance in plants, we screened Arabidopsis thaliana mutants for deregulated expression of a firefly luciferase reporter gene under the control of the C-REPEAT BINDING FACTOR2 (CBF2) promoter (CBF2:LUC). A regulator of CBF gene expression1 (rcf1-1) mutant that is hypersensitive to cold stress was chosen for in-depth characterization. RCF1 encodes a cold-inducible DEAD (Asp-Glu-Ala-Asp) box RNA helicase. Unlike a previously reported DEAD box RNA helicase (LOW EXPRESSION OF OSMOTICALLY RESPONSIVE GENES4 [LOS4]) that regulates mRNA export, RCF1 does not play a role in mRNA export. Instead, RCF1 functions to maintain proper splicing of pre-mRNAs; many cold-responsive genes are mis-spliced in rcf1-1 mutant plants under cold stress. Functional characterization of four genes (PSEUDO-RESPONSE REGULATOR5 [PRR5], SHAGGY-LIKE SERINE/THREONINE KINASE12 [SK12], MYB FAMILY TRANSCRIPTION FACTOR CIRCADIAN1 [CIR1], and SPFH/PHB DOMAIN-CONTAINING MEMBRANE-ASSOCIATED PROTEIN [SPFH]) that are mis-spliced in rcf1-1 revealed that these genes are cold-inducible positive (CIR1 and SPFH) and negative (PRR5 and SK12) regulators of cold-responsive genes and cold tolerance. Together, our results suggest that the cold-inducible RNA helicase RCF1 is essential for pre-mRNA splicing and is important for cold-responsive gene regulation and cold tolerance in plants.

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