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Trends Plant Sci. 2005 May;10(5):210-4.

What genes make a tree a tree?

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Institute of Forest Genetics, Pacific Southwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service, 1100 West Chiles Rd, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


Woody growth is evolutionarily ancient, yet has been gained and lost multiple times in plant evolution and is readily enhanced or minimized in eudicot speciation. New molecular genetic and genomic studies in Populus and Arabidopsis that are defining the genes responsible for cambium function and woody growth suggest that the genes regulating woody growth are not unique to woody plants. Surprisingly, key genetic mechanisms originally characterized as regulating the meristematic cells of the shoot apical meristem are also expressed in the vascular cambium during woody growth. This has important implications for the development of Populus as a model species and illustrates why forest trees constitute a contrived group of plants that have more in common with herbaceous relatives than we foresters like to admit.

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