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Comparative RNA-sequencing-based transcriptome profiling of buds from profusely flowering ‘Qinguan’ and weakly flowering ‘Nagafu no. 2’ apple varieties reveals novel insights into the regulatory mechanisms underlying floral induction

Chen, Xilong, Qi, Siyan, Zhang, Dong, Li, Youmei, An, Na, Zhao, Caiping, Zhao, Juan, Shah, Kamran, Han, Mingyu, Xing, Libo
BMC plant biology 2018 v.18 no.1 pp. 370
abscisic acid, alternate bearing, apples, biochemical pathways, biosynthesis, bud sport, carbon, cell division, cytokinins, fatty acids, flower buds, flowering, gene expression, gene expression regulation, genes, gibberellins, indole acetic acid, jasmonic acid, juveniles, salicylic acid, starch, transcription factors, transcriptomics, trees
BACKGROUND: Floral induction is an important stage in the apple tree life cycle. In ‘Nagafu No. 2’, which was derived from a ‘Fuji’ bud sport, flower bud formation is associated with serious problems, such as fewer and inferior flower buds, a long juvenile phase, and an alternate bearing phenotype. Moreover, the molecular regulatory mechanisms underlying apple floral induction remain unknown. To characterize these mechanisms, we compared the RNA-sequencing-based transcriptome profiles of buds during floral induction in profusely flowering ‘Qinguan’ and weakly flowering ‘Nagafu No. 2’ apple varieties. RESULTS: Genes differentially expressed between the buds of the two varieties were mainly related to carbohydrate, fatty acid, and lipid pathways. Additionally, the steady up-regulated expression of genes related to the fatty acid and lipid pathways and the down-regulated expression of starch synthesis-related genes in the carbon metabolic pathway of ‘Qinguan’ relative to ‘Nagafu No. 2’ were observed to contribute to the higher flowering rate of ‘Qinguan’. Additionally, global gene expression profiling revealed that genes related to cytokinin, indole-3-acetic acid, and gibberellin synthesis, signalling, and responses (i.e., factors contributing to cell division and differentiation and bud growth) were significantly differentially expressed between the two varieties. The up-regulated expression of genes involved in abscisic acid and salicylic acid biosynthesis via shikimate pathways as well as jasmonic acid production through fatty acid pathways in ‘Qinguan’ buds were also revealed to contribute to the floral induction and relatively high flowering rate of this variety. The differential expression of transcription factor genes (i.e., SPL, bZIP, IDD, and MYB genes) involved in multiple biological processes was also observed to play key roles in floral induction. Finally, important flowering genes (i.e., FT, FD, and AFL) were significantly more highly expressed in ‘Qinguan’ buds than in ‘Nagafu No. 2’ buds during floral induction. CONCLUSIONS: A complex genetic network of regulatory mechanisms involving carbohydrate, fatty acid, lipid, and hormone pathways may mediate the induction of apple tree flowering.