Adaptation to altitude affects the senescence response to chilling in the perennial plant Arabis alpina

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In annual plants with determinate growth, sugar accumulation signals high carbon availability once growth has ceased, resulting in senescence-dependent nutrient recycling to the seeds. However, this senescence-inducing effect of sugars is abolished at cold temperature, where sugar accumulation is important for protection. Here, natural variation was exploited to analyse the effect of chilling on interactions between leaf senescence, sugars, and phytohormones in Arabis alpina, a perennial plant with indeterminate growth. Eight accessions of A. alpina originating from between 2090 and 3090 m above sea level in the French Alps were used to identify heritable adaptations in senescence, stress response, sugars, and phytohormones to altitude. Accessions from high altitudes showed an enhanced capacity for sucrose accumulation and a diminished loss of chlorophyll in response to chilling. At warm temperature, sucrose content was negatively correlated with chlorophyll content, and sucrose treatment induced leaf senescence. Chilling resulted in lower indole-3-acetic acid, but higher zeatin and jasmonic acid contents. Interactions between sugar and phytohormones included a positive correlation between sucrose and jasmonic acid contents that may be involved in promoting the stress-dependent decline in chlorophyll. These findings reveal regulatory interactions that underlie adaptation in the senescence and stress response to chilling.

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