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Planta. 2011 Sep;234(3):527-39. doi: 10.1007/s00425-011-1418-8. Epub 2011 May 4.

Embryogenic potential and expression of embryogenesis-related genes in conifers are affected by treatment with a histone deacetylase inhibitor.

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Uppsala Biocenter, Department of Plant Biology and Forest Genetics, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), 7080, 75007 Uppsala, Sweden.


Somatic embryogenesis is used for vegetative propagation of conifers. Embryogenic cultures can be established from zygotic embryos; however, the embryogenic potential decreases during germination. In Arabidopsis, LEAFY COTYLEDON (LEC) genes are expressed during the embryonic stage, and must be repressed to allow germination. Treatment with the histone deacetylase inhibitor trichostatin A (TSA) causes de-repression of LEC genes. ABSCISIC ACID3 (ABI3) and its Zea mays ortholog VIVIPAROUS1 (VP1) act together with the LEC genes to promote embryo maturation. In this study, we have asked the question whether TSA treatment in a conifer affects the embryogenic potential and the expression of embryogenesis-related genes. We isolated two conifer LEC1-type HAP3 genes, HAP3A and HAP3B, from Picea abies and Pinus sylvestris. A comparative phylogenetic analysis of plant HAP3 genes suggests that HAP3A and HAP3B are paralogous genes originating from a duplication event in the conifer lineage. The expression of HAP3A is high, in both somatic and zygotic embryos, during early embryo development, but decreases during late embryogeny. In contrast, the expression of VP1 is initially low but increases during late embryogeny. After exposure to TSA, germinating somatic embryos of P. abies maintain the competence to differentiate embryogenic tissue, and simultaneously the germination progression is partially inhibited. Furthermore, when embryogenic cultures of P. abies are exposed to TSA during embryo maturation, the maturation process is arrested and the expression levels of PaHAP3A and PaVP1 are maintained, suggesting a possible link between chromatin structure and expression of embryogenesis-related genes in conifers.

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