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Plant Cell Environ. 2015 Oct;38(10):2061-70. doi: 10.1111/pce.12529. Epub 2015 Apr 23.

Freezing avoidance by supercooling in Olea europaea cultivars: the role of apoplastic water, solute content and cell wall rigidity.

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Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Buenos Aires, C1033AAJ, Argentina.
Grupo de Estudios Biofísicos y Eco-fisiológicos (GEBEF), Departamento de Biología, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia San Juan Bosco, Comodoro Rivadavia, 9000, Argentina.
Laboratorio de Ecología Funcional (LEF), Departamento de Ecología, Genética y Evolución, FCEyN, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, 1425, Argentina.
Department of Biology, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL, 33124, USA.


Plants can avoid freezing damage by preventing extracellular ice formation below the equilibrium freezing temperature (supercooling). We used Olea europaea cultivars to assess which traits contribute to avoid ice nucleation at sub-zero temperatures. Seasonal leaf water relations, non-structural carbohydrates, nitrogen and tissue damage and ice nucleation temperatures in different plant parts were determined in five cultivars growing in the Patagonian cold desert. Ice seeding in roots occurred at higher temperatures than in stems and leaves. Leaves of cold acclimated cultivars supercooled down to -13 °C, substantially lower than the minimum air temperatures observed in the study site. During winter, leaf ice nucleation and leaf freezing damage (LT50 ) occurred at similar temperatures, typical of plant tissues that supercool. Higher leaf density and cell wall rigidity were observed during winter, consistent with a substantial acclimation to sub-zero temperatures. Larger supercooling capacity and lower LT50 were observed in cold-acclimated cultivars with higher osmotically active solute content, higher tissue elastic adjustments and lower apoplastic water. Irreversible leaf damage was only observed in laboratory experiments at very low temperatures, but not in the field. A comparative analysis of closely related plants avoids phylogenetic independence bias in a comparative study of adaptations to survive low temperatures.


LT50; freezing resistance; ice nucleation; non-structural carbohydrate; olive

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