Intraspecies differences in cold hardiness, carbohydrate content and β-amylase gene expression of Vaccinium corymbosum during cold acclimation and deacclimation

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Abstract

Changes in cold hardiness, carbohydrate content and β-amylase gene expression were monitored in the shoots of the highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.) cultivars ‘Sharpblue’ and ‘Jersey’ during cold acclimation (CA) and deacclimation (DA). The seasonal patterns were similar in both cultivars, but the levels of cold hardiness determined by electrolyte leakage analysis were significantly different; ‘Jersey’ was hardier than ‘Sharpblue’. Cold hardiness was closely related to total soluble sugar content (r = −0.98** and −0.99** for ‘Sharpblue’ and ‘Jersey’, respectively). In ‘Jersey’, more soluble sugars accumulated during CA. Of the detected soluble sugars, glucose, fructose and raffinose contents were significantly associated with cold hardiness in both cultivars. Sucrose was abundant in both cultivars, and stachyose content changed significantly during CA and DA. However, they were not associated with cold hardiness. A sharp decrease in starch contents in the middle of CA coincided with β-amylase gene (VcBMY) expression, indicating the conversion of starch into soluble sugars. During CA, VcBMY was expressed up to twofold higher in ‘Jersey’ than in ‘Sharpblue’. These results suggest that intraspecies differences in the cold hardiness of highbush blueberries are associated with total soluble sugar content, which is driven partly by differential expression of VcBMY.

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