Irina A. Ionescu, Gregorio López-Ortega, Meike Burow, Almudena Bayo-Canha, Alexander Junge, Oliver Gericke, Birger L. Møller and Raquel Sánchez-Pérez
Release of bud dormancy in perennial woody plants is a temperature-dependent process and thus flowering in these species is heavily affected by climate change. The lack of cold winters in temperate growing regions often results in reduced flowering and low fruit yields. This is likely to decrease the availability of fruits and nuts of the Prunus spp. in the near future. In order to maintain high yields, it is crucial to gain detailed knowledge on the molecular mechanisms controlling the release of bud dormancy. Here, we studied these mechanisms using sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.), a crop where the agrochemical hydrogen cyanamide (HC) is routinely used to compensate for the lack of cold winter temperatures and to induce flower opening. In this work, dormant flower buds were sprayed with hydrogen cyanamide followed by deep RNA sequencing, identifying three main expression patterns in response to HC. These transcript level results were validated by quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction and supported further by phytohormone profiling (ABA, SA, IAA, CK, ethylene, JA). Using these approaches, we identified the most up-regulated pathways: the cytokinin pathway, as well as the jasmonate and the hydrogen cyanide pathway. Our results strongly suggest an inductive effect of these metabolites in bud dormancy release and provide a stepping stone for the characterization of key genes in bud dormancy release.