Periodicity of cambial activity in Abies balsamea. II. Effects of temperature and photoperiod on the size of the nuclear genome in fusiform cambial cells


R.T. Riding (corresponding author)


Previously, we showed that the size of the nuclear genome, measured cytophotometrically in Feulgen-stained fusiform cambial cells of Abies balsamea (L.) Mill., oscillates annually between a maximum in spring and a minimum in late summer, the labile, extra DNA being synthesized during the fall. To determine it the oscillation is induced by the concomitant seasonal changes in temperature and photoperiod, genome size was measured in cambial cells obtained from one-year-old branches of 6-year-old potted trees at the beginning and end of 9 weeks of exposure during the fall, spring and summer to either the natural environment or one of 4 controlled environments, viz. (1) WS, warm temperature (24/20°C in day/night) and short photoperiod (8 h). (2) WL, warm temperature (24/20°C) and long photoperiod (8 h + 1 h night break), (3) CS, cold temperature (9/5°C) and short photoperiod (8 h). and (4) CL, cold temperature (9/5°C) and long photoperiod (8 h + 1 h night break). Overall, genome size (2C) varied between 20 and 34 pg. In the fall, when the cambium was initially dormant, the genome size increased in the natural environment, did not change under short days (WS and CS), and decreased under long days (WL and CL). The cambium reactivated in both WS and WL conditions. In the spring, while the cambium reactivated, the size of the genome decreased in the natural, WS and WL conditions, but not in the CS environment. In the CL conditions, the genome size started to decrease at the end of the 9-week exposure period. The decrease apparently occurred between prophase and telophase, which suggests that the extra DNA is extrachromosomal. In the summer, while the cambium ceased activity, the genome size did not change in the WS, WL and natural environments, whereas it decreased in the CS and CL conditions. The results indicate that increasing temperature and lengthening photoperiod in the spring induce the loss of the extra DNA. However, the environmental conditions that promote DNA synthesis in the fall remain unknown. Genome size varied independently of cambial growth potential and frost hardiness measured previously in the same experimental trees, indicating that the regulation of these processes does not directly involve the extra DNA. However, the finding that cambial cells cycled in the CS and CL environments only in the spring, when their genome size was large, suggests that the extra DNA is important for cambial growth at low temperatures.