, Volume 234, Issue 3, pp 445–457 | Cite as

Comparative studies on tolerance of Medicago truncatula and Medicago falcata to freezing

  • Li-Li Zhang
  • Min-Gui Zhao
  • Qiu-Ying Tian
  • Wen-Hao Zhang
Original Article


Medicago falcata is a legume species that exhibits great capacity of tolerance to abiotic stresses. To elucidate the mechanism underlying tolerance of M. falcata to freezing, we compared the characteristics of M. falcata in response to cold acclimation and freezing with those of the legume model plant Medicago truncatula. M. falcata seedlings were more tolerant to freezing than M. truncatula, as evidenced by a lower value of EL50 (temperature at which 50% electrolyte leakage after freezing) and greater survival rate for M. falcata than M. truncatula. Cold acclimation led to greater reduction in EL50 for M. falcata than M. truncatula. Sucrose was the most abundant sugar in both M. falcta and M. truncatula, and a greater accumulation of sucrose and Pro in M. falcata than in M. truncatula during cold acclimation was observed. Cold acclimation induced small amounts of raffinose and stachyose in M. falcata, but not in M. truncatula. The activities of sucrose phosphate synthase and sucrose synthase were greater in M. falcata than in M. truncatula. In contrast, the activity of acid invertase was higher in M. truncatula than in M. falcata. There was an increase in transcript of CRT binding factor (CBF) upon exposure to low temperature in the two species. The low temperature-induced increase in transcript of CBF2 was much higher in M. truncatula than in M. falcata, while transcript of CBF3 in M. falcata was greater than that in M. truncatula. There were sustained increases in transcripts of cold acclimation specific (CAS), a downstream target of CBF, during cold acclimation and the increases were greater in M. falcata than in M. truncatula. These results demonstrate that accumulation of greater amounts of soluble sugars coupled with higher CBF3 and CAS transcript levels in M. falcata may play a role in conferring greater tolerance of M. falcata to freezing than that of M. truncatula.


Cold acclimation CRT binding factor (CBF) Medicago truncatula Medicago falcata Freezing tolerance Soluble sugars 



Acid invertase


Cold acclimation specific


CRT binding factor


Cold regulated


Temperature leading to 50% tissue damages due to leakage of electrolyte


Δ1-Pyrroline-5-carboxylate synthase


Proline dehydrogenase


Reactive oxygen species


Sucrose phosphate synthase


Sucrose synthase



This work was supported by the State Key Basic Research Development Program of China (2007CB106800) and Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 30821062 & 30788003) and State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change.

Supplementary material

425_2011_1416_MOESM1_ESM.doc (578 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 577 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Li-Li Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Min-Gui Zhao
    • 1
  • Qiu-Ying Tian
    • 1
  • Wen-Hao Zhang
    • 1
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental ChangeInstitute of Botany, the Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingPeople’s Republic of China

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