Transcriptomic response of durum wheat to cold stress at reproductive stage


Understanding the genetic basis of cold tolerance is a key step towards obtaining new and improved crop varieties. Current geographical distribution of durum wheat in Argentina exposes the plants to frost damage when spikes have already emerged. Biochemical pathways involved in cold tolerance are known to be early activated at above freezing temperatures. In this study we reported the transcriptome of CBW0101 spring durum wheat by merging data from untreated control and cold (5 °C) treated plant samples at reproductive stage. A total of 128,804 unigenes were predicted. Near 62% of the unigenes were annotated in at least one database. In total 876 unigenes were differentially expressed (DEGs), 562 were up-regulated and 314 down-regulated in treated samples. DEGs are involved in many critical processes including, photosynthetic activity, lipid and carbohydrate synthesis and accumulation of amino acids and seed proteins. Twenty-eight transcription factors (TFs) belonging to 14 families resulted differentially expressed from which eight families comprised of only TFs induced by cold. We also found 31 differentially expressed Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), most of them up-regulated in treated plants. Two of these lncRNAs could operate via microRNAs (miRNAs) target mimic. Our results suggest a reprogramming of expression patterns in CBW0101 that affects a number of genes that is closer to the number reported in winter genotypes. These observations could partially explain its moderate tolerance (low proportion of frost-damaged spikes) when exposed to freezing days in the field.

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We thank Lic. Santiago Revale for his technical assistance in the use of Illumina HiSeq 1500 platform and in the preliminary bioinformatic analysis of reads. We are also thankful to Engineer C. Jensen and Dra A. Larsen (INTA Barrow) for providing the seeds of wheat accession and the pedigree information. The authors would also like to thank Dr. Freda Anderson for providing language help.


This research was granted by the Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica (PICT 2011–2188 grant awarded to Dr. A. Carrera) and Universidad Nacional del Sur and Comisión de Investigaciones Científicas de la Pcia. de Buenos Aires (grants awarded to Dr. M. Díaz).

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MLD and DSS performed the analyses and wrote the manuscript; JB generated the dataset; SJC performed gene qRT-PCR validation. AC supervised the work and helped to discuss the results. All authors read and approved the article.

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Correspondence to Marina L. Díaz.

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Díaz, M.L., Soresi, D.S., Basualdo, J. et al. Transcriptomic response of durum wheat to cold stress at reproductive stage. Mol Biol Rep 46, 2427–2445 (2019).

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  • Cold tolerance
  • Differentially expressed genes
  • Durum wheat
  • RNA-seq
  • Transcriptome
  • Reproductive stage