Salicylic acid and cold priming induce late-spring freezing tolerance by maintaining cellular redox homeostasis and protecting photosynthetic apparatus in wheat

  • Weiling Wang
  • Xiao WangEmail author
  • Jia Zhang
  • Mei Huang
  • Jian Cai
  • Qin Zhou
  • Tingbo Dai
  • Dong JiangEmail author
Original paper


An increasing number of studies provide evidence that priming (pre-exposure of plants to moderate stress or chemical stimulus) can confer plant tolerance to a later occurring severe stress. The main objective of this study was to explore and compare the physiological mechanisms of salicylic acid (SA) and cold priming to enhance freezing tolerance. Wheat plants were firstly primed with SA (100 μM) or cold temperature (day/night temperature of 6 °C/2 °C), and then grown without any treatment for 8 days, and subsequently subjected to a freezing stress (day/night temperature of 2 °C/0 °C on the first day and − 2 °C/− 4 °C on the second day) at the jointing stage. The results showed that primed plants up-regulated the expression level of WRKY gene (WRKY19), heat shock transcription factor (HSF3), mitochondrial alternative oxidase (AOX1a), and heat shock protein (HSP70) under freezing stress, which contribute to increase of antioxidant capacity and protection of photosystem in parallel with lower malonaldehyde content, superoxide radical production and higher photochemistry efficiency of photosystem II under freezing stress as compared with non-primed plants. Furthermore, primed plants had a better photosynthesis performance and higher biomass production during the recovery period, and higher grain yield at maturity as compared with non-primed plants. Collectively, these results indicated that SA and cold priming effectively upregulated the expression of cold-responsive genes under freezing stress, resulting in increased antioxidant activity and cyanide-resistant respiration capacity and molecular chaperones level, maintaining cellular redox homeostasis and protecting photosynthetic apparatus, thereby conferring tolerance to freezing stress in wheat plants.


Antioxidant capacity Cold priming Cold-responsive gene Freezing tolerance Salicylic acid Wheat 



This study was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFD0300107), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31401326, 31325020, and 31771693), the China Agriculture Research System (CARS-03), Jiangsu Collaborative Innovation Center for Modern Crop Production (JCIC-MCP), and Postgraduate Research & Practice Innovation Program of Jiangsu Province. We also thank Prof. Shui-zhang Fei (Iowa State University, USA) for providing language help.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10725_2019_553_MOESM1_ESM.docx (120 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 120 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Technique Innovation Center for Regional Wheat Production/Key Laboratory of Crop Physiology, Ecology and Production, MOA/National Engineering and Technology Center for Information AgricultureNanjing Agricultural UniversityNanjingChina

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