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Plant Physiol Biochem. 2018 Nov;132:579-589. doi: 10.1016/j.plaphy.2018.10.003. Epub 2018 Oct 9.

Expression of genes in the potential regulatory pathways controlling alternate bearing in 'Fuji' (Malus domestica Borkh.) apple trees during flower induction.

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College of Horticulture, Northwest A & F University, Yangling, Shaanxi, 712100, China.
College of Horticulture, Northwest A & F University, Yangling, Shaanxi, 712100, China. Electronic address:


Most perennial fruit trees have an alternate bearing problem where a heavy fruit load is produced one year (ON year) but few flowers and fruits produced the next year (OFF year), resulting in a significant fluctuation in production. In the present study, comparative transcriptome analysis of terminal buds of apple (Malus domestica Borkh., cv. Nagafu No. 2) trees was conducted during the floral induction period in the ON and OFF years to identify the potential regulatory pathways controlling alternate bearing. A total of 1027 differentially expressed genes (DEGs), most of which were involved in secondary metabolism, sugar metabolism, plant hormone pathways, were identified. The analysis focused on differences in sugar content and hormone levels between the ON and OFF trees. Sucrose content, zeatin-riboside (ZR), and abscisic acid (ABA) levels were lower in ON-year buds than in OFF-year buds. ON buds also had elevated levels of gibberellins (GAs), with a higher expression of GA20 oxidase (GA20ox) and a significant lower level of RGA-like2 (RGL2). Expression analyses also revealed a significantly higher level of SQUAMOSA-PROMOTER BINDING PROTEIN-LIKE genes (MdSPL1, MdSPL6 and MdSPL12) transcripts levels in buds of OFF trees at 45 days after full bloom (DAFB). LEAFY (LFY) expression increased significantly prior to flower induction in OFF buds. These findings provide new information of the role of hormones in alternate bearing, as well as other processes, and provide new insights into the molecular mechanisms regulating alternate bearing in perennial fruit trees.


Alternate bearing; Floral induction; Gibberellin; Malus domestica; RNA-seq

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