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Keywords:

  • ABA;
  • abscisic acid;
  • Betula;
  • birch;
  • dehydrins;
  • dormancy;
  • fluridone;
  • freezing tolerance;
  • water stress

In many woody plants photoperiod signals the initiation of dormancy and cold acclimation. The photoperiod-specific physiological and molecular mechanisms have remained uncharacterised. The role of abscisic acid (ABA) and dehydrins in photope-riod-induced dormancy and freezing tolerance was investigated in birch, Betula pubescens Ehrh. The experiments were designed to investigate if development of dormancy and freezing tolerance under long-day (LD) and short-day (SD) conditions could be affected by manipulation of the endogenous ABA content, and if accumulation of dehydrin-like proteins was correlated with SD and/or the water content of the buds. Experimentally, the internal ABA content was increased by ABA application and by water stress treatment under LD, and decreased by blocking the synthesis of ABA with fluridone under SD. Additionally, high humidity (95% RH) was applied to establish if accidental water stress was involved in SD. ABA content was monitored by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry with selective ion monitoring (SIM). Short days induced a transient increase in ABA content, which was absent in 95% RH, whereas fluridone treatment decreased ABA. Short days induced a typical pattern of bud desiccation and growth cessation regardless of the treatment, and improved freezing tolerance except in the fluridone treatment. ABA content of the buds was significantly increased after spraying ABA on leaves and after water stress, treatments that did not induce cessation of growth and dormancy, but improved freezing tolerance. In addition to several constitutively produced dehydrins, two SD-specific proteins of molecular masses 34 and 36 kDa were found. Photoperiod- and experimentally-induced alterations in ABA contents affected freezing tolerance but not cessation of growth and dormancy. Therefore, involvement of ABA in the photoperiodic control of cold acclimation is more direct than in growth cessation and dormancy. As the typical desiccation pattern of the buds was found in all SD plants, and was not directly related to ABA content or to freezing tolerance, this pattern characterises the onset of photo-period-induced growth cessation and dormancy. The results provide evidence for the existence of various constitutively and two photoperiod-induced dehydrins in buds of birch, and reveal characteristics of dormancy and freezing tolerance that may facilitate further investigations of photoperiodic control of growth in trees.