Circadian clock components control daily growth activities by modulating cytokinin levels and cell division-associated gene expression in Populus trees
Plant Cell Environ. 2018, Accepted manuscript online: 8 MAR 2018

Edwards KD, Takata N, Johansson M, MJurca M, Novák O, Hényková E, Liverani S, Kozarewa I, Strnad M, A Millar AJ, Ljung K, Eriksson ME

Trees are carbon dioxide sinks and major producers of terrestrial biomass with distinct seasonal growth patterns. Circadian clocks enable the co-ordination of physiological and biochemical temporal activities, optimally regulating multiple traits including growth. To dissect the clock's role in growth, we analysed Populus tremula × P. tremuloides trees with impaired clock function due to down-regulation of central clock components. late elongated hypocotyl (lhy-10) trees, in which expression of LHY1 and LHY2 is reduced by RNAi, have a short free-running period and show disrupted temporal regulation of gene expression and reduced growth, producing 30-40% less biomass than wild-type trees. Genes important in growth regulation were expressed with an earlier phase in lhy-10, and CYCLIN D3 expression was misaligned and arrhythmic. Levels of cytokinins were lower in lhy-10 trees, which also showed a change in the time of peak expression of genes associated with cell division and growth. However, auxin levels were not altered in lhy-10 trees and the size of the lignification zone in the stem showed a relative increase. The reduced growth rate and anatomical features of lhy-10 trees were mainly caused by misregulation of cell division, which may have resulted from impaired clock function.

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