Small RNA-Sequencing Links Physiological Changes and RdDM Process to Vegetative-to-Floral Transition in Apple. Academic Article uri icon


  • Transition from vegetative to floral buds is a critical physiological change during flower induction that determines fruit productivity. Small non-coding RNAs (sRNAs) including microRNAs (miRNAs) and small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) are pivotal regulators of plant growth and development. Although the key role of sRNAs in flowering regulation has been well-described in Arabidopsis and some other annual plants, their relevance to vegetative-to-floral transition (hereafter, referred to floral transition) in perennial woody trees remains under defined. Here, we performed Illumina sequencing of sRNA libraries prepared from vegetative and floral bud during flower induction of the apple trees. A large number of sRNAs exemplified by 33 previously annotated miRNAs and six novel members display significant differential expression (DE) patterns. Notably, most of these DE-miRNAs in floral transition displayed opposite expression changes in reported phase transition in apple trees. Bioinformatics analysis suggests most of the DE-miRNAs targeted transcripts involved in SQUAMOSA PROMOTER BINDING PROTEIN-LIKE (SPL) gene regulation, stress responses, and auxin and gibberellin (GA) pathways, with further suggestion that there is an inherent link between physiological stress response and metabolism reprogramming during floral transition. We also observed significant changes in 24 nucleotide (nt) sRNAs that are hallmarks for RNA-dependent DNA methylation (RdDM) pathway, suggestive of the correlation between epigenetic modifications and the floral transition. The study not only provides new insight into our understanding of fundamental mechanism of poorly studied floral transition in apple and other woody plants, but also presents important sRNA resource for future in-depth research in the apple flowering physiology.

published proceedings

  • Front Plant Sci

altmetric score

  • 5.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Guo, X., Ma, Z., Zhang, Z., Cheng, L., Zhang, X., & Li, T.

citation count

  • 23

complete list of authors

  • Guo, Xinwei||Ma, Zeyang||Zhang, Zhonghui||Cheng, Lailiang||Zhang, Xiuren||Li, Tianhong

publication date

  • January 2017