A new cold-inducible genetic construct was cloned using a chloroplast-specific omega-3-fatty acid desaturase gene (FAD7) under the control of a cold-inducible promoter (cor15a) from Arabidopsis thaliana. RT-PCR confirmed a marked increase in FAD7 expression, in young Nicotiana tabacum (cv. Havana) plants harboring cor15a-FAD7, after a short-term exposure to cold. When young, cold-induced tobacco seedlings were exposed to low-temperature (0.5, 2 or 3.5 degrees C) for up to 44 days, survival within independent cor15a-FAD7 transgenic lines (40.2-96%) was far superior to the wild type (6.7-10.2%). In addition, the major trienoic fatty acid species remained stable in cold-induced cor15a-FAD7 N. tabacum plants under prolonged cold storage while the levels of hexadecatrienoic acid (16:3) and octadecatrienoic acid (18:3) declined in wild type plants under the same conditions (79 and 20.7% respectively). Electron microscopy showed that chloroplast membrane ultrastructure in cor15a-FAD7 transgenic plants was unaffected by prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. In contrast, wild type plants experienced a loss of granal stacking and disorganization of the thylakoid membrane under the same conditions. Changes in membrane integrity coincided with a precipitous decline in leaf chlorophyll concentration and low survival rates in wild type plants. Cold-induced double transgenic N. alata (cv. Domino Mix) plants, harboring both the cor15a-FAD7 cold-tolerance gene and a cor15a-IPT dark-tolerance gene, exhibited dramatically higher survival rates (89-90%) than wild type plants (2%) under prolonged cold storage under dark conditions (2 degrees C for 50 days).
Khodakovskaya, Mariya; McAvoy, Richard; Peters, Jeanne; Wu, Hao; and Li, Yi, "Enhanced Cold Tolerance in Transgenic Tobacco Expressing a Chloroplast Omega-3 Fatty Acid Desaturase Gene under the Control of a Cold-inducible Promoter" (2006). Plant Science Articles. Paper 7.