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Time of day matters to thirsty trees, U of T researcher discovers
Date:11/23/2009

TORONTO, November 23, 2009 - The time of day matters to forest trees dealing with drought, according to a new paper produced by a research team led by Professor Malcolm Campbell, University of Toronto Scarborough's vice-principal for research and colleagues in the department of cell and systems biology at the St. George campus.

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. Campbell and PhD student Olivia Wilkins, the lead researchers, along with researchers Levi Waldron, Hardeep Nahal and Nicholas Provart, had their findings published in the November 13 issue of the Plant Journal. The article is titled "Genotype and time of day shape the Populus drought response."

"Each gene is like a line of code in a computer program" says Campbell, a plant biologist. "Depending on which lines of code are used, the tree can create a different program to respond to environmental stimuli, like drought." 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 singl
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Contact: Eleni Kanavas
ekanavas@utsc.utoronto.ca
416-208-5103
University of Toronto
Source:Eurekalert

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