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No signs of meristem senescence in old Scots pine

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>05/2014
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Ecology
Issue number3
Volume102
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)555-565
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Ageing and senescence in plants remain poorly understood. Although meristem totipotency may allow woody perennials to be immortal, relative growth and photosynthetic rates typically decline with age.

Trees of ages between 129 and 534years were selected in one of the oldest extant populations of Scots pine. Apical branches were propagated by grafting onto homogeneous juvenile rootstock to eliminate the effects of size and environmental variability and isolate those due to age. The hormonal profile of leaves and seeds along with markers of the physiological status of leaves and their pattern of DNA cytosine methylation were measured 15years after grafting.

The percentage of total methylated loci in nuclear DNA increased with increasing meristematic age. However, only very few significant relationships were found between levels of phyto-hormones, pigments or physiological markers either in leaves or seeds and age of the meristem. In addition, shoots grafted from old trees grew as fast as those from younger trees and produced the same number of germinable seeds.

Synthesis. We conclude that changes in DNA methylation can occur in old trees. The lack of apparent physiological deterioration in the grafted plants suggests that meristem senescence is not the main factor triggering whole-plant ageing in Scots pine.