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MacKay Plantation Forest Biotech (2004)

MacKay, J., Bérubé, H., Regan, S., Séguin, A. (2004) Functional genomics in forest trees: application to the investigation of defense mechanisms and wood formation. In: Plantation Forest Biotechnology for the 21st Century, C Walter and Mike Carson Eds., 163-180


The growing list of tree gene discovery projects reveals the existence of genes associated with possible functions already evaluated in other plant species. However, a considerable number of novel genes offer limited clues as to their key functions, particularly in the context of tree species. Trancriptome analysis using DNA microarray or DNA chip technologies has already been used to classify genes into distinct groups, based on similar gene expression patterns. However, to decode gene functions, a range of systematic approaches could be used, collectively known as functional genomics. In this chapter, we will describe how functional genomic studies are applicable to forest tree species with a specific emphasis on wood formation and defense response. We will specifically outline a rationale for using transcriptional regulators to experimentally modulate and dissect the transcriptome and its regulation. This approach takes advantage of studies in model plant systems in which several classes of transcriptional regulator genes have been well characterized. We will also outline an important application of this technology, the development of selection tools to accurately identify elite trees, which is particularly important in forestry where tree improvement cycles are very long. The genomic technologies described here will identify and characterize key genes responsible for wood quality or disease resistance so that they can be applied via homologous gene transformation systems for the improvement of forest trees.