MPK3- and MPK6-Mediated ICE1 Phosphorylation Negatively Regulates ICE1 Stability and Freezing Tolerance in Arabidopsis
Low temperatures affect plant growth, development, productivity, and ecological distribution. Expression of the C-repeat-binding factor (CBF) transcription factors is induced by cold stress, which in turn activates downstream cold-responsive (COR) genes that are required for the acquisition of freezing tolerance. Inducer of CBF expression 1 (ICE1) is a master regulator of CBFs, and ICE1 stability is crucial for its function. However, the regulation of ICE1 is not well understood. Here, we report that mitogen-activated protein kinase 3 (MPK3) and MPK6 interact with and phosphorylate ICE1, which reduces its stability and transcriptional activity. Consistently, the mpk3 and mpk6 single mutants and the mpk3 mpk6 double mutant show enhanced freezing tolerance, whereas MPK3/MPK6 activation attenuates freezing tolerance. Phosphor-inactive mutations of ICE1 complement freezing sensitivity in the ice1-2 mutant. These combined results indicate that MPK3/MPK6 phosphorylate and destabilize ICE1, which negatively regulates CBF expression and freezing tolerance in plants.