Spatial and temporal transcriptome changes occurring during flower opening and senescence of the ephemeral hibiscus flower, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

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Flowers are complex systems whose vegetative and sexual structures initiate and die in a synchronous manner. The rapidity of this process varies widely in flowers, with some lasting for months while others such as Hibiscus rosa-sinensis survive for only a day. The genetic regulation underlying these differences is unclear. To identify key genes and pathways that coordinate floral organ senescence of ephemeral flowers, we identified transcripts in H. rosa-sinensis floral organs by 454 sequencing. During development, 2053 transcripts increased and 2135 decreased significantly in abundance. The senescence of the flower was associated with increased abundance of many hydrolytic genes, including aspartic and cysteine proteases, vacuolar processing enzymes, and nucleases. Pathway analysis suggested that transcripts altering significantly in abundance were enriched in functions related to cell wall-, aquaporin-, light/circadian clock-, autophagy-, and calcium-related genes. Finding enrichment in light/circadian clock-related genes fits well with the observation that hibiscus floral development is highly synchronized with light and the hypothesis that ageing/senescence of the flower is orchestrated by a molecular clock. Further study of these genes will provide novel insight into how the molecular clock is able to regulate the timing of programmed cell death in tissues.

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