Regulation of gene expression in epigenetically contrasted conifer epitypes by RNA-Seq

Project facts

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Researchers or scientists
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From EEA Grants:
€ 43,391
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Epigenetic phenomena and epigenetic molecular mechanisms are currently among the most dramatically expanding research topics, causing paradigm changes in genetics and at the same time revealing new biological understanding. The main goal of the project is to study the epigenetic memory in Norway spruce, tracking the transcriptome changes in response to changing temperature conditions. It is expected to identify the role of different cell types and the regulatory mechanisms involved in the establishment and maintenance of the epigenetic memory, as well as the regulation of adaptive traits. The partnership will develop an integrative research program on conifer species generating new knowledge. The donor partner, Norwegian Forest and Landscape Institute, has broad experience in climatic adaptation of Norway spruce and is a world leader in the studies of epigenetic memory in forest trees. Project promoter, University of Alcalá, has previous experience in somatic embryo generation in conifers. The main beneficiaries of the project will be the scientific community.

Summary of project results

Forest tree epigenetics is a regulatory mechanism in adaptative epigenetic responses and other forms of plasticity that may help to guide management of genetic resources and plant breeding. In Norway spruce, an adaptive mechanism, called epigenetic memory, has been identified. Due to their longevity and exposure to large seasonal changes, trees and perennial wordy plants have developed systems to modify their phenotype to tolerate changes in climatic conditions. While the predicted climate changes, with increasing temperatures, might challenge their adaptive capabilities, connivers such as Norway spruce appear to have elaborated epigenetic regulatory mechanisms which can facilitate and retain changes in genes activities, enabling them to survive and reproduce successfully in changing environments. It has been established that the timing of bud burst and bud set in Norway spruce is regulated by an epigenetic memory set by the temperature conditions during zygotic and somatic embryogenesis. The identification of transcription regulatory networks will give an insight into epigenetically altered phenologies in response to cold acclimatation in Norway spruce. During the project, the grantee’s research work has been focused on the analysis of expression of candidate genes by qRT-PCR and characterization of epigenetic dynamics in contrasting developmental and environmental conditions. For gene expression analysis, the land material used was buds and needels from eigth-year-old trees regeneratic after somatic embryogenesis in cold (10oC) and warm (28oC) environment; of genotypes A2K and B10V at different phenological stages (samples collected in 2011 and kept at -80oC until RNA extraction). Also, buds from genotype B10V collected on April 2015 from the same trees and mentioned above have been used for laser-capture microdissection (LMD) experiments. And, finally, somatic embryos of genotypes A2K and B10V at different developmental stages, grown under warm (28oC), control (23oC) or cold (18oC) epitype-inducing conditions. During the research period, the grantee attended and gave several seminars, and collaborated in the training of two Master students research work at University of Life Sciences. Several papers have been prepared or are in preparation. The project enables the Spanish research group to incorporate new lines of work once the grantee is back to her home institution.

Summary of bilateral results

The involved researchers and institutions are cooperating under the grame of the ProCoGen (Promoting Conifer Genomics) project ( ProCoGen is a large EU project started in 2012 with the aim to promote a functional and comparative understanding of the conifer genome. The collaboration between the University of Alcala group and the group at NBIO is developing an integrative research program on conifer species combining the use of the most appropriate technologies to generate new knowledge to improve forste productivity through targeted breeding programs based on better adapted material to regional climatic threats, forest stewardship in response to environmental change as well as conservation efforts. The results obtained in ProCoGen project will be the foundation for participation in future projects within the H2020 programme. The collaboration between the grantee and Dr. Fossdal at NBIO will continue as they have several articles pending of being published.