Plant J. 108 (6) 1815-1829 [2021-12-00; online 2021-10-21]
Boreal conifers possess a tremendous ability to survive and remain evergreen during harsh winter conditions and resume growth during summer. This is enabled by coordinated regulation of major cellular functions at the level of gene expression, metabolism, and physiology. Here we present a comprehensive characterization of the annual changes in the global transcriptome of Norway spruce (Picea abies) needles as a resource to understand needle development and acclimation processes throughout the year. In young, growing needles (May 15 until June 30), cell walls, organelles, etc., were formed, and this developmental program heavily influenced the transcriptome, explained by over-represented Gene Ontology (GO) categories. Later changes in gene expression were smaller but four phases were recognized: summer (July-August), autumn (September-October), winter (November-February), and spring (March-April), where over-represented GO categories demonstrated how the needles acclimated to the various seasons. Changes in the seasonal global transcriptome profile were accompanied by differential expression of members of the major transcription factor families. We present a tentative model of how cellular activities are regulated over the year in needles of Norway spruce, which demonstrates the value of mining this dataset, accessible in ConGenIE together with advanced visualization tools.