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Boosting cold stress tolerance in crop plants can minimize stress-mediated yield losses. Asian rice (Oryza sativa L.), one of the most consumed cereal crops, originated from subtropical regions and is generally sensitive to low temperature environments. Within the two subspecies of rice, JAPONICA, and INDICA, the cold tolerance potential of its accessions is highly variable and depends on their genetic background. Yet, cold stress tolerance response mechanisms are complex and not well understood. This study utilized 370 accessions from the Rice Diversity Panel 1 (RDP1) to investigate and correlate four cold stress tolerance response phenotypes: membrane damage, seedling survivability, and catalase and anthocyanin antioxidative activity. Most JAPONICA accessions, and admixed accessions within JAPONICA, had lower membrane damage, higher antioxidative activity, and overall, higher seedling survivability compared to INDICA accessions. Genome-wide association study (GWAS) mapping was done using the four traits to find novel quantitative trait loci (QTL), and to validate and fine-map previously identified QTL. A total of 20 QTL associated to two or more traits were uncovered by our study. Gene Ontology (GO) term enrichment analyses satisfying four layers of filtering retrieved three potential pathways: signal transduction, maintenance of plasma membrane and cell wall integrity, and nucleic acids metabolism as general mechanisms of cold stress tolerance responses involving antioxidant activity.


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Genes, Vol. 12, No. 11 (October 2021). DOI. © 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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