RNA G-quadruplex structure contributes to cold adaptation in plants.

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Nucleotide composition is suggested to infer gene functionality and ecological adaptation of species to distinct environments. However, the underlying biological function of nucleotide composition dictating environmental adaptations is largely unknown. Here, we systematically analyze the nucleotide composition of transcriptomes across 1000 plants (1KP) and their corresponding habitats. Intriguingly, we find that plants growing in cold climates have guanine (G)-enriched transcriptomes, which are prone to forming RNA G-quadruplex structures. Both immunofluorescence detection and in vivo structure profiling reveal that RNA G-quadruplex formation in plants is globally enhanced in response to cold. Cold-responsive RNA G-quadruplexes strongly enhanced mRNA stability, rather than affecting translation. Disruption of individual RNA G-quadruplex promotes mRNA decay in the cold, leading to impaired plant cold response. Therefore, we propose that plants adopted RNA G-quadruplex structure as a molecular signature to facilitate their adaptation to the cold during evolution.