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Open Access Research article

Comparison of freezing tolerance, compatible solutes and polyamines in geographically diverse collections of Thellungiella sp. and Arabidopsis thaliana accessions

Yang Ping Lee1, Alexei Babakov2, Bert de Boer3, Ellen Zuther1 and Dirk K Hincha1*

Author Affiliations

1 Max-Planck-Institut für Molekulare Pflanzenphysiologie, Am Mühlenberg 1, Potsdam, D-14476, Germany

2 All-Russia Research Institute of Agricultural Biotechnology RAAS, Timiryazevskaya St. 42, Moscow, 127550, Russia

3 Department of Structural Biology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1085-1087, Amsterdam, 1081 HV, The Netherlands

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BMC Plant Biology 2012, 12:131  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-131

Published: 3 August 2012



Thellungiella has been proposed as an extremophile alternative to Arabidopsis to investigate environmental stress tolerance. However, Arabidopsis accessions show large natural variation in their freezing tolerance and here the tolerance ranges of collections of accessions in the two species were compared.


Leaf freezing tolerance of 16 Thellungiella accessions was assessed with an electrolyte leakage assay before and after 14 days of cold acclimation at 4°C. Soluble sugars (glucose, fructose, sucrose, raffinose) and free polyamines (putrescine, spermidine, spermine) were quantified by HPLC, proline photometrically. The ranges in nonacclimated freezing tolerance completely overlapped between Arabidopsis and Thellungiella. After cold acclimation, some Thellungiella accessions were more freezing tolerant than any Arabidopsis accessions. Acclimated freezing tolerance was correlated with sucrose levels in both species, but raffinose accumulation was lower in Thellungiella and only correlated with freezing tolerance in Arabidopsis. The reverse was true for leaf proline contents. Polyamine levels were generally similar between the species. Only spermine content was higher in nonacclimated Thellungiella plants, but decreased during acclimation and was negatively correlated with freezing tolerance.


Thellungiella is not an extremophile with regard to freezing tolerance, but some accessions significantly expand the range present in Arabidopsis. The metabolite data indicate different metabolic adaptation strategies between the species.

Arabidopsis thaliana; Cold acclimation; Compatible solutes; Freezing tolerance; Natural variation; Polyamines; Thellungiella salsuginea