Time of day matters to thirsty trees dealing with drought

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Washington, November 24 (ANI): A new research indicates that the time of the day mattes to forest trees dealing with drought.

The research was carried out by Professor Malcolm Campbell, University of Toronto Scarborough's vice-principal for research and PhD student Olivia Wilkins, along with researchers Levi Waldron, Hardeep Nahal and Nicholas Provart.

Capitalizing on their previous work to decode the genome of the poplar tree, the research team examined how poplar trees use their 45,000 genes to respond to drought.

"Each gene is like a line of code in a computer program," said Campbell. "Depending on which lines of code are used, the tree can create a different program to respond to environmental stimuli, like drought," he added.

The use of different combinations of genes creates different programs.

The combination of genes that trees use in response to a stress, like drought, determines whether the tree can survive this stress or not.

In the past, researchers examined drought-responsive gene programs at a single time point - normally in the middle of the day when most researchers work in the lab or the field.

Wilkins did her experiments so that she examined the gene programs at multiple times throughout the day and night.

Surprisingly, working together with University of Toronto bioinformaticians, the team found that trees used different drought response gene programs at different times of day.

That is, the drought response gene program that the trees used in the middle of the day was different from the program used in the middle of the night.

"Previously, researchers referred to the drought response as though it was a single, simple program that ran all the time," said Campbell.

The new research shows that the story is not that simple.

"Rather than one program, trees use multiple programs, each of which runs at a different time of day," said Wilkins.

The discovery that trees use different programs at different times of the day is described as a critical finding.

Previous research may have overemphasised the importance of some genes in helping trees to contend with drought, and totally missed others that are important.

The new work provides insights and tools to enable future researchers to identify, conserve and breed trees that are better able to contend with drought. (ANI)

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