Altitudinal differentiation in the leaf wax-mediated flowering bud protection against frost in a perennial Arabidopsis

Abstract

An altitudinal gradient of leaf water repellency is often observed between and within species. In a previous study of Arabidopsis halleri, cauline leaves (stem leaves that wrap flowering buds) showed higher water repellency in exposed semi-alpine plants than in understory low-elevation plants. Here, we examined altitudinal variations in the cuticular wax content of the leaf surface and experimentally evaluated the role of high water repellency of cauline leaves. Leaf cuticular wax was analysed using comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography (GC)-mass spectrometry and a GC-flame ionisation detector. Young flowering buds wrapped by cauline leaves were exposed to freezing temperatures with or without water, and frost damage to the flowering buds was compared between plants from semi-alpine and low-elevation habitats. Higher amounts of C29, C31, and C33 alkanes were observed in the cauline leaves of semi-alpine plants than in those of low-elevation plants. In the freezing experiment, water application increased damage to the flowering buds of low-elevation plants, and the extent of damage to the flowering buds was lower in semi-alpine plants than in low-elevation plants when water was applied to the plant surface. Genetic variations in the amounts of alkanes on the leaf surface depending on the altitude occurred specifically in cauline leaves. Our results indicate that the water repellency of cauline leaves presumably minimises frost damage to flowering buds at high altitudes.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Maasa Hamamura-Yumoto for assistance in field sampling.

Funding

This study was supported by JST CREST JPMJCR15O1 and JSPS KAKENHI (grant number JP19H01001 to HK and grant number JP1072190 to GY).

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GY, BA, and HK conceived the study; GY conducted the field, growth chamber, and freezing experiments; GY, YS, and HO analysed the cuticular wax; GY and HK wrote the paper with input from all authors.

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Correspondence to Hiroshi Kudoh.

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This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

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Communicated by Louis Stephen Santiago.

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Yumoto, G., Sasaki-Sekimoto, Y., Aryal, B. et al. Altitudinal differentiation in the leaf wax-mediated flowering bud protection against frost in a perennial Arabidopsis. Oecologia (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-021-04870-6

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Keywords

  • Alkane
  • Cauline leaf
  • Freezing tolerance
  • Gas chromatography
  • Water repellency