Impact of grafting on cold responsive gene expression in Satsuma mandarin (Citrus unshiu)
The major limitation preventing the expansion of Satsuma mandarin (Citrus unshiu) production in the Gulf Coast regions of the US is the risk of freeze damage. Poncirus trifoliata (L.) Raf has been widely used as a cold hardy rootstock for citrus production in freeze-prone environments. In this study, relative quantitative real-time RT-PCR was used to study cold responsive genes in Satsuma mandarin (C. unshiu), C. unshiu grafted on P. trifoliata rootstock and P. trifoliata following exposure to cold shock or cold acclimation treatments. Major changes in gene expression occurred in the different species during cold stress especially with respect to nitrate transporter, auxin responsive GH3, UDP-glycosyltransferase (UGT) and chalcone-flavanone isomerase. Very high levels of nitrate transporter were reached early in Poncirus following 60 h of cold shock treatment at 4°C, and in C. unshiu after 3 weeks of gradual cold acclimation. Also, high levels of auxin responsive GH3 were reached in Poncirus following both cold shock and cold acclimation, while levels in C. unshiu were low or reduced. Poncirus rootstock significantly affected gene expression in C. unshiu scion, resulting in a reduction of nitrate transporter, UGT and trehalose 6-phosphate synthase expression levels, and an increase in auxin responsive GH3 gene during cold acclimation. The impact of rootstock on citrus scion during cold stress might be associated with partitioning of nutrients and hormones.
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