Climatic adaptation in Picea abies progenies is affected by the temperature during zygotic embryogenesis and seed maturation


Øystein Johnsen. Fax: +47 64 94 29 80; e-mail:


The temperature during maternal reproduction affects adaptive traits in progenies of Norway spruce (Picea abies (L) Karst.). Seed production in a cold environment advances bud set and cold acclimation in the autumn and dehardening and flushing in spring, whereas a warm reproductive environment delays timing of these traits. We repeated crosses between the same parents and produced seeds under contrasting temperatures. Elevated temperatures were applied at different time points from female meiosis to embryogenesis, followed by full-sib progeny tests in common environments. We measured timing of terminal bud formation, cold acclimation in the autumn and transcription levels of conifer phytochromes PhyO, PhyN, PhyP, and the class IV chitinase PaChi4 in these tests. No progeny differences were found that could be related to temperature differences during prezygotic stages and fertilization. In contrast, progeny performance was strongly associated with the degree-days from proembryo to mature seeds. Progenies with a warm embryonic history formed terminal buds later, were less hardy and expressed lower transcription levels of the Phy and PaChi4 genes. We hypothesize that temperature during zygotic embryogenesis and seed maturation regulates an ‘epigenetic memory’ in the progeny, involving differential expression of genes that may regulate bud phenology, cold acclimation and embryogenesis in Norway spruce.