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Breeders Could Adapt Trees to Climate Change: New Gene Discovery

Trees may be more adept at adapting to climate change than once thought. Scientists have discovered a gene that controls the awakening of trees from winter dormancy, which is a critical factor in their ability to adjust to environmental changes associated with climate change.

The timings of annual cycles-when trees open their leaves, produce flowers, or go dormant-help trees adapt to environmental signals associated with climate. Yet genetics have to keep up as a climate changes.

That's why the researchers decided to trace what is known as the bud-break gene, also known was EBB1. The scientists developed modified trees that overproduced EBB1 genes and emerged from dormancy earlier in the year. They also showed that trees with less EBB1 activity emerged from dormancy late.

The researchers found that EBB1 codes for a protein that helps to restart cell division in part of the tree known as meristem, which is analogous to stem cells in animals. EBB1 also plays a role in suppressing genes that prepare trees for dormancy in the fall and in other processes such as nutrient cycling and root growth.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014