From bud formation to flowering: transcriptomic state defines the cherry developmental phases of sweet cherry bud dormancy.
BACKGROUND:Bud dormancy is a crucial stage in perennial trees and allows survival over winter to ensure optimal flowering and fruit production. Recent work highlighted physiological and molecular events occurring during bud dormancy in trees. However, they usually examined bud development or bud dormancy in isolation. In this work, we aimed to further explore the global transcriptional changes happening throughout bud development and dormancy onset, progression and release. RESULTS:Using next-generation sequencing and modelling, we conducted an in-depth transcriptomic analysis for all stages of flower buds in several sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.) cultivars that are characterized for their contrasted dates of dormancy release. We find that buds in organogenesis, paradormancy, endodormancy and ecodormancy stages are defined by the expression of genes involved in specific pathways, and these are conserved between different sweet cherry cultivars. In particular, we found that DORMANCY ASSOCIATED MADS-box (DAM), floral identity and organogenesis genes are up-regulated during the pre-dormancy stages while endodormancy is characterized by a complex array of signalling pathways, including cold response genes, ABA and oxidation-reduction processes. After dormancy release, genes associated with global cell activity, division and differentiation are activated during ecodormancy and growth resumption. We then went a step beyond the global transcriptomic analysis and we developed a model based on the transcriptional profiles of just seven genes to accurately predict the main bud dormancy stages. CONCLUSIONS:Overall, this study has allowed us to better understand the transcriptional changes occurring throughout the different phases of flower bud development, from bud formation in the summer to flowering in the following spring. Our work sets the stage for the development of fast and cost effective diagnostic tools to molecularly define the dormancy stages. Such integrative approaches will therefore be extremely useful for a better comprehension of complex phenological processes in many species.