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X-ray computed tomography to decipher the genetic architecture of tree branching traits: oak as a case study

  • Song, Jialin1
  • Brendel, Oliver2
  • Bodénès, Catherine3
  • Plomion, Christophe3
  • Kremer, Antoine3
  • Colin, Francis1
  • 1 AgroParisTech, LERFoB, INRA, Nancy, 54000, France , Nancy (France)
  • 2 Université de Lorraine, EEF, INRA, Champenoux, 54280, France , Champenoux (France)
  • 3 University of Bordeaux, BIOGECO, INRA, Cestas, 33610, France , Cestas (France)
Published Article
Tree Genetics & Genomes
Springer Berlin Heidelberg
Publication Date
Dec 14, 2016
DOI: 10.1007/s11295-016-1083-y
Springer Nature


A new method for obtaining internal views of tree trunks was recently developed using X-ray computed tomography (CT). This technology makes it possible to observe and measure rameal traces that are left by latent buds, sequential branches, and epicormic branches in the wood. Epicormic branches are undesirable for producing high-value solid wood, especially in Quercus robur, an important hardwood forest tree species in Europe, which is prone to epicormic branches that develop from abundant latent buds. For the very first time, branching-related traits deduced from X-ray CT observation make it possible to analyze the genetic architecture of oak branching through a quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis. Highly significant QTLs were detected for traits related to latent buds and epicormic branches. The number and effect of these QTLs suggest a moderate genetic determinism for the formation of latent buds and the development of epicormic branches. Three hotspots were found, grouping QTLs for different branching traits. An analysis of the common physiological denominators of these coincident traits suggests that their genetic controls are related to either the regulation of the axillary meristem initiation or to bud dormancy. Conversely, the position of only the separate QTL related to the number of sequential branches suggests an independent genetic control.

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