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Comparative analyses reveal potential uses of Brachypodium distachyon as a model for cold stress responses in temperate grasses

Chuan Li12, Heidi Rudi2, Eric J Stockinger3, Hongmei Cheng4, Moju Cao1*, Samuel E Fox5, Todd C Mockler6, Bjørge Westereng7, Siri Fjellheim2, Odd Arne Rognli2 and Simen R Sandve2*

Author Affiliations

1 Maize Research Institute, Sichuan Agricultural University, Sichuan, China

2 Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, ÅS, Norway

3 Department of Horticulture and Crop Science, The Ohio State University/OARDC, Wooster, OH, 44691, USA

4 Biotechnology Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing, 100081, China

5 Department of Botany and Plant Pathology and Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA

6 Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Saint Louis, MO, 63132, USA

7 Department of Chemistry, Biotechnology and Food Science, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway

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BMC Plant Biology 2012, 12:65  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-65

Published: 8 May 2012



Little is known about the potential of Brachypodium distachyon as a model for low temperature stress responses in Pooideae. The ice recrystallization inhibition protein (IRIP) genes, fructosyltransferase (FST) genes, and many C-repeat binding factor (CBF) genes are Pooideae specific and important in low temperature responses. Here we used comparative analyses to study conservation and evolution of these gene families in B. distachyon to better understand its potential as a model species for agriculturally important temperate grasses.


Brachypodium distachyon contains cold responsive IRIP genes which have evolved through Brachypodium specific gene family expansions. A large cold responsive CBF3 subfamily was identified in B. distachyon, while CBF4 homologs are absent from the genome. No B. distachyon FST gene homologs encode typical core Pooideae FST-motifs and low temperature induced fructan accumulation was dramatically different in B. distachyon compared to core Pooideae species.


We conclude that B. distachyon can serve as an interesting model for specific molecular mechanisms involved in low temperature responses in core Pooideae species. However, the evolutionary history of key genes involved in low temperature responses has been different in Brachypodium and core Pooideae species. These differences limit the use of B. distachyon as a model for holistic studies relevant for agricultural core Pooideae species.

Brachypodium distachyon; Cold climate adaptation; Ice recrystallization inhibition protein; Gene expression; Fructosyltransferase; C-repeat binding factor; Gene family evolution