We study the mechanisms of extreme frost tolerance in boreal forest conifers such as Siberian spruce, (Picea obovata, a close relative of Norway spruce, P. abies), and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris). Populations of these species live in Siberia, where winter temperatures often fall below -60˚C and can remain below -40˚C for weeks at a time.
Understanding how these species survive such extreme cold may help predict their responses to global warming, and may also lead to improved methods of food, drug, cell, and tissue preservation by freezing or drying.
We have focused on sugars and proteins as likely contributors to extreme frost tolerance. These may help cells vitrify at relatively high temperatures, or interact directly with functional proteins and cell membranes to protect them from the effects of freezing stress.