The Arabidopsis thaliana CBF cold response pathway plays a central role in cold acclimation. It is characterized by rapid cold induction of genes encoding the CBF1-3 transcription factors, followed by expression of the CBF gene regulon, which imparts freezing tolerance. Our goal was to further the understanding of the cis-acting elements and trans-acting factors involved in expression of CBF2. We identified seven conserved DNA motifs (CM), CM1 to 7, that are present in the promoters of CBF2 and another rapidly cold-induced gene encoding a transcription factor, ZAT12. The results presented indicate that in the CBF2 promoter, CM4 and CM6 have negative regulatory activity and that CM2 has both negative and positive activity. A Myc binding site in the CBF2 promoter was also found to have positive regulatory effects. Moreover, our results indicate that members of the calmodulin binding transcription activator (CAMTA) family of transcription factors bind to the CM2 motif, that CAMTA3 is a positive regulator of CBF2 expression, and that double camta1 camta3 mutant plants are impaired in freezing tolerance. These results establish a role for CAMTA proteins in cold acclimation and provide a possible point of integrating low-temperature calcium and calmodulin signaling with cold-regulated gene expression
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