Tropical and sub-tropical higher plant species show marked growth inhibition when exposed to chilling temperatures. In root tip segments of coffee seedlings which were subjected for 6 days to temperatures of 10, 15, 20 and 25°C, in darkness, we have detected an increased amount of malondialdehyde formed in the 10°C treatment, accompanied by higher electrolyte leakage. The electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) technique and the fatty acid spin probes 5-, 12- and 16-doxylstearic acid were used to assess cellular membrane fluidity. At the depth of the 5th and 16th carbon atom of the alkyl chains the nitroxide radical detected more rigid membranes in seedlings subjected to 10°C compared with 15 and 25°C. At the C-12 position of the chains the probe showed very restricted motion and was insensitive to chilling induced membrane alterations. EPR parameters for intact tissues and microsome preparations from root tips showed that the fluidity was essentially the same when evaluated at C-5 and C-16 positions of the chains, and was considerably more fluid for microsomal membranes in the region of the C-12 position of the bilayers. The rotational motion of the nitroxide at C-16 position of the chains experienced a phase transition at about 15°C. The calculated energy barriers for reorientational motion of the probe 16-doxylstearic acid were higher at temperatures of 5-15°C than in the interval of 15-25°C, suggesting that below the phase transition the membrane lipids assume a more ordered and compacted array. Membrane rigidity induced by chilling was interpreted as due to lipid peroxidation that could have been facilitated by higher density of peroxidizable chains below the membrane phase transition.
Alonso, A., Queiroz, C. S., & Magalhães, A. C. (1997). Chilling stress leads to increased cell membrane rigidity in roots of coffee ( Coffea arabica L.) seedlings. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes, 1323(1), 75–84. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0005-2736(96)00177-0