Using Arabidopsis to study shoot branching in biomass willow.

Research paper by Sally P SP Ward, Jemma J Salmon, Steven J SJ Hanley, Angela A Karp, Ottoline O Leyser

Indexed on: 24 Apr '13Published on: 24 Apr '13Published in: Plant physiology


The success of the short-rotation coppice system in biomass willow (Salix spp.) relies on the activity of the shoot-producing meristems found on the coppice stool. However, the regulation of the activity of these meristems is poorly understood. In contrast, our knowledge of the mechanisms behind axillary meristem regulation in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) has grown rapidly in the past few years through the exploitation of integrated physiological, genetic, and molecular assays. Here, we demonstrate that these assays can be directly transferred to study the control of bud activation in biomass willow and to assess similarities with the known hormone regulatory system in Arabidopsis. Bud hormone response was found to be qualitatively remarkably similar in Salix spp. and Arabidopsis. These similarities led us to test whether Arabidopsis hormone mutants could be used to assess allelic variation in the cognate Salix spp. hormone genes. Allelic differences in Salix spp. strigolactone genes were observed using this approach. These results demonstrate that both knowledge and assays from Arabidopsis axillary meristem biology can be successfully applied to Salix spp. and can increase our understanding of a fundamental aspect of short-rotation coppice biomass production, allowing more targeted breeding.