EU project identifies genetic hardiness in trees
A determining factor for the success of saplings maturing into healthy trees is their hardiness. Indeed, one of the major tasks for nursery growers consists of hardening plants, or preparing them for the harsh and often varying conditions they will face in natural environments. Hardiness, and particularly cold hardiness for European purposes, is important for forestry officials coordinating reforestation efforts across the continent. A successfully completed research project funded under FP5 attempted to identify the genetic root of tree hardiness to support reforestation rates and the vitality of economically and ecologically important forest tree species.
The project consortium used cDNA microarray technology to analyse
gene expression patterns in sample trees. Experts combined gene
expression technology with physiological and morphological screening
for a multidisciplinary approach to the molecular events involved
at the onset and release of dormancy and hardiness.
During controlled growth, tree sample groups were studied separately for decreasing temperature environments and decreasing day-length environments to allow an independent study of genes involved in these intertwined but discrete processes. Cold and warm shocks were applied, though they were shown to hardly influence tree dormancy.
Through their innovative interdisciplinary model, experts were able to determine that dormancy development in beech is more pronounced than that of pine. They compiled a cDNA library from beech buds to be used as a base for a small beech array in future studies.
The consortium also carried out work on the development of an
easy-to-use diagnostic test using dehydrin genes as a model.
Dehydrins code for proteins present throughout the plant kingdom
allowing the test to be used beyond forestry. The proteins generated
by dehydrins play important roles in dormancy and defence against
dehydration and other abiotic stresses making them important
subjects of study for researchers protecting plants from today's