Comparing Cherry Genes Linked to Sleeping Buds and Stress Survival

Jenn Hoskins
12th March, 2024

Comparing Cherry Genes Linked to Sleeping Buds and Stress Survival

Key Findings

  • Shanghai study finds melatonin genes in cherry and peach trees affect growth and stress response
  • Unique melatonin gene subgroups in these trees differ from model plants, possibly altering dormancy and stress tolerance
  • Insights could lead to agricultural advances, like optimizing fruit tree growth for various climates
Melatonin, a compound commonly associated with sleep regulation in humans, is also a crucial molecule in the plant kingdom. Recent research from Shanghai Jiao Tong University[1] has delved into the world of Prunus species—such as cherry and peach—to unravel the complexities of melatonin biosynthesis and its implications for plant development and stress response. The production of melatonin in plants involves several key enzymes, including serotonin N-acetyltransferase (SNAT), tryptamine 5-hydroxylase (T5H), N-acetylserotonin methyltransferase (ASMT), and tryptophan decarboxylase (TDC). Each of these plays a distinct role in the multi-step process that leads to the creation of melatonin. The study focused on comparing the genes responsible for these enzymes across four Prunus species to understand their evolution and diversification. Researchers identified a range of these genes within the genomes of the studied Prunus species, finding a total of 29 TDCs, 998 T5Hs, 16 SNATs, and 115 ASMTs. Through comparative genomics—a method that compares the genetic content between different species—they were able to pinpoint both commonalities and unique characteristics among the melatonin biosynthesis genes of these fruit trees. One of the study's key findings was the discovery of unique subgroup members in the melatonin genes of the Prunus species, which differed from those found in the model plant Arabidopsis. This suggests that these genes may have evolved differently in Prunus species, potentially leading to unique regulatory mechanisms of plant growth and stress response. The study also explored the potential roles of these genes in regulating bud dormancy and abiotic stress tolerance. Bud dormancy is a critical phase in the life cycle of perennial plants, allowing them to survive unfavorable conditions. The transcriptomic expression analysis—observing which genes are active at any given moment—suggested that melatonin genes might be involved in controlling when and how buds enter and exit this dormant state. Moreover, the research adds to the growing body of evidence that melatonin is a versatile player in plant resilience. Previous studies have highlighted melatonin's role in enhancing plant resistance to environmental stresses[2][3][4]. It acts as a powerful antioxidant, scavenging harmful free radicals, and modulates various signaling and response pathways. This new study extends these findings by suggesting that melatonin could also be a key factor in managing the dormancy cycles in fruit trees, which is essential for their survival and productivity. The implications of these findings are significant for agriculture. Understanding how melatonin biosynthesis genes function could lead to innovative methods to improve crop yield and quality. For instance, by manipulating these genes, it may be possible to control the timing of bud dormancy in cherry trees, optimizing their growth for different climates and conditions. In summary, the research from Shanghai Jiao Tong University has provided a comprehensive look at the melatonin biosynthesis genes in Prunus species, revealing their evolutionary history and hinting at their potential applications in agriculture. By shedding light on the intricate relationship between these genes and plant development, this study lays the groundwork for future research aimed at enhancing the productivity and stress tolerance of fruit-bearing trees.

GeneticsBiochemPlant Science


Main Study

1) Comparative genomics of N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine members in four Prunus species with insights into bud dormancy and abiotic stress responses in Prunus avium.

Published 11th March, 2024

Related Studies

2) Melatonin-mediated development and abiotic stress tolerance in plants.

3) Melatonin Mediates Axillary Bud Outgrowth by Improving Nitrogen Assimilation and Transport in Rice.

4) Functions and prospects of melatonin in plant growth, yield, and quality.

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