UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Changes in hormone flux and signaling in white spruce (Picea glauca) seeds during the transition from dormancy to germination in response to temperature cues Liu, Yang; Müller, Kerstin; El-Kassaby, Yousry A.; Kermode, Allison R


Background: Seeds use environmental cues such as temperature to coordinate the timing of their germination, allowing plants to synchronize their life history with the seasons. Winter chilling is of central importance to alleviate seed dormancy, but very little is known of how chilling responses are regulated in conifer seeds. White spruce (Picea glauca) is an important conifer species of boreal forests in the North American taiga. The recent sequencing and assembly of the white spruce genome allows for comparative gene expression studies toward elucidating the molecular mechanisms governing dormancy alleviation by moist chilling. Here we focused on hormone metabolite profiling and analyses of genes encoding components of hormone signal transduction pathways, to elucidate changes during dormancy alleviation and to help address how germination cues such as temperature and light trigger radicle emergence. Results ABA, GA, and auxin underwent considerable changes as seeds underwent moist chilling and during subsequent germination; likewise, transcripts encoding hormone-signaling components (e.g. ABI3, ARF4 and Aux/IAA) were differentially regulated during these critical stages. During moist chilling, active IAA was maintained at constant levels, but IAA conjugates (IAA-Asp and IAA-Glu) were substantially accumulated. ABA concentrations decreased during germination of previously moist-chilled seeds, while the precursor of bioactive GA1 (GA53) accumulated. We contend that seed dormancy and germination may be partly mediated through the changing hormone concentrations and a modulation of interactions between central auxin-signaling pathway components (TIR1/AFB, Aux/IAA and ARF4). In response to germination cues, namely exposure to light and to increased temperature: the transfer of seeds from moist-chilling to 30 °C, significant changes in gene transcripts and protein expression occurred during the first six hours, substantiating a very swift reaction to germination-promoting conditions after seeds had received sufficient exposure to the chilling stimulus. Conclusions The dormancy to germination transition in white spruce seeds was correlated with changes in auxin conjugation, auxin signaling components, and potential interactions between auxin-ABA signaling cascades (e.g. the transcription factor ARF4 and ABI3). Auxin flux adds a new dimension to the ABA:GA balance mechanism that underlies both dormancy alleviation by chilling, and subsequent radicle emergence to complete germination by warm temperature and light stimuli.

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