2.04.06 - Molecular biology of forest trees
The Working Party on Molecular Biology of Forest Trees is focused on how trees and forest ecosystems function at the molecular level, with a focus on how molecular tools such as DNA markers can be used to probe function and aid in forest management. Scientific goals include tree and forest organism development, physiology, adaptation, reproduction, dispersal, evolution, and wood structure and chemistry. Common methods and tools used for scientific analysis include omic databases of all types (e.g., genomics, transcriptomics, epigenomics), computational biology and bioinformatics, inheritance studies, microscopy, and the many types of transgenic or gene editing perturbations.
The Working Party is also concerned with all types of biotechnologies that can be applied to trees and forests, including both plantations and wild or lightly managed forests. Important biotechnologies include genomic and marker-aided selection for breeding and conservation; genetic engineering and gene editing for tree and forest pest modification; and in vitro and in vivo plant propagation.
The first annotated tree genome sequence was published in 2006 (Tuskan et al. 2006, Science). Since then, a plethora of model and non-model tree species have had their genome sequenced and annotated. We have now arrived in the post-genomic era, where we can apply that knowledge through comparative and functional genomics and biotechnology. Comparative genomics allows us to analyse related individuals or species that have adapted to local environments and extract the genomic basis of that adaptation. Targeted functional genomics allows us to identify genes that affect traits of interest such as wood properties or biotic stress resistance and biotechnology allows us to manipulate these genes and traits. The applied outcomes of the post-genomic era knowledge can lead to trees that are adapted to changing environments and increased yields, helping us to keep up with growing demand of fibre and bioproducts.