Molecular control of winter dormancy establishment in trees: a review

I. Allona, A. Ramos, C. Ibáñez, A. Contreras, R. Casado, C. Aragoncillo


Dormancy is an adaptive mechanism that enables woody plants to survive the freezing temperatures of winter. This complex process is characterized by the cessation of meristem activity, which is accompanied by winter bud set, extensive metabolic remodelling, an acquired high tolerance to cold and, in deciduous trees, by leaf senescence and abscission. The induction of dormancy occurs in response to seasonal environmental signals. In most woody plants, shortening of the photoperiod induces growth cessation, bud set, and some degree of cold acclimation. The subsequent drop in temperature then leads to a greater tolerance to cold and leaf fall. Experimental evidence indicates that the phytochrome system plays an important role as a day length sensor, and it has been recently reported that in poplar (Populus tremula x tremuloides), the photoperiodic control of dormancy induction is driven by a molecular mechanism that shares components with the mechanism of the photoperiodic control of flowering time in Arabidopsis. In contrast, the effects of low temperatures are less well understood. Nonetheless, it has been established that the chestnut (Castanea sativa Mill.) circadian molecular clock is disrupted both during winter and in response to cold, with presumable consequences on the general physiology of the plant. However, there is no direct evidence so far for its role in dormancy regulation.



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DOI: 10.5424/sjar/200806S1-389