Plants have varying abilities to tolerate chilling (low but not freezing temperatures), and it is largely unknown how plants such as Arabidopsis thaliana achieve chilling tolerance. Here, we describe a genome-wide screen for genes important for chilling tolerance by their putative knockout mutants in Arabidopsis thaliana. Out of 11,000 T-DNA insertion mutant lines representing half of the genome, 54 lines associated with disruption of 49 genes had a drastic chilling sensitive phenotype. Sixteen of these genes encode proteins with chloroplast localization, suggesting a critical role of chloroplast function in chilling tolerance. Study of one of these proteins RBD1 with an RNA binding domain further reveals the importance of chloroplast translation in chilling tolerance. RBD1 is expressed in the green tissues and is localized in the chloroplast nucleoid. It binds directly to 23S rRNA and the binding is stronger under chilling than at normal growth temperatures. The rbd1 mutants are defective in generating mature 23S rRNAs and deficient in chloroplast protein synthesis especially under chilling conditions. Together, our study identifies RBD1 as a regulator of 23S rRNA processing and reveals the importance of chloroplast function especially protein translation in chilling tolerance. © 2016 Wang et al.
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