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Thalhammer A, Bryant G, Sulpice R, Hincha DK
Plant Physiol
Disordered cold regulated15 proteins protect chloroplast membranes during freezing through binding and folding, but do not stabilize chloroplast enzymes in vivo.
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Freezing can severely damage plants, limiting geographical distribution of natural populations and leading to major agronomical losses. Plants native to cold climates acquire increased freezing tolerance during exposure to low nonfreezing temperatures in a process termed cold acclimation. This involves many adaptative responses, including global changes in metabolite content and gene expression, and the accumulation of cold-regulated (COR) proteins, whose functions are largely unknown. Here we report that the chloroplast proteins COR15A and COR15B are necessary for full cold acclimation in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana). They protect cell membranes, as indicated by electrolyte leakage and chlorophyll fluorescence measurements. Recombinant COR15 proteins stabilize lactate dehydrogenase during freezing in vitro. However, a transgenic approach shows that they have no influence on the stability of selected plastidic enzymes in vivo, although cold acclimation results in increased enzyme stability. This indicates that enzymes are stabilized by other mechanisms. Recombinant COR15 proteins are disordered in water, but fold into amphipathic α-helices at high osmolyte concentrations in the presence of membranes, a condition mimicking molecular crowding induced by dehydration during freezing. X-ray scattering experiments indicate protein-membrane interactions specifically under such crowding conditions. The COR15-membrane interactions lead to liposome stabilization during freezing. Collectively, our data demonstrate the requirement for COR15 accumulation for full cold acclimation of Arabidopsis. The function of these intrinsically disordered proteins is the stabilization of chloroplast membranes during freezing through a folding and binding mechanism, but not the stabilization of chloroplastic enzymes. This indicates a high functional specificity of these disordered plant proteins.
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