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Keywords:

  • Apple latent spherical virus vector;
  • early flowering;
  • apple seedling;
  • reduction in generation time;
  • new breeding technique

Summary

Fruit trees have a long juvenile phase. For example, the juvenile phase of apple (Malus × domestica) generally lasts for 5–12 years and is a serious constraint for genetic analysis and for creating new apple cultivars through cross-breeding. If modification of the genes involved in the transition from the juvenile phase to the adult phase can enable apple to complete its life cycle within 1 year, as seen in herbaceous plants, a significant enhancement in apple breeding will be realized. Here, we report a novel technology that simultaneously promotes expression of Arabidopsis FLOWERING LOCUS T gene (AtFT) and silencing of apple TERMINAL FLOWER 1 gene (MdTFL1-1) using an Apple latent spherical virus (ALSV) vector (ALSV-AtFT/MdTFL1) to accelerate flowering time and life cycle in apple seedlings. When apple cotyledons were inoculated with ALSV-AtFT/MdTFL1 immediately after germination, more than 90% of infected seedlings started flowering within 1.5–3 months, and almost all early-flowering seedlings continuously produced flower buds on the lateral and axillary shoots. Cross-pollination between early-flowering apple plants produced fruits with seeds, indicating that ALSV-AtFT/MdTFL1 inoculation successfully reduced the time required for completion of the apple life cycle to 1 year or less. Apple latent spherical virus was not transmitted via seeds to successive progenies in most cases, and thus, this method will serve as a new breeding technique that does not pass genetic modification to the next generation.