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In the Japanese pear (Pyrus pyrifolia Nakai) ‘Kosui’, three developmental stages of lateral flower buds have been proposed to occur during ecodormancy to the flowering phase, i.e. rapid enlargement, sprouting and flowering. Here, we report an APETALA2/ethylene-responsive factor (AP2/ERF) transcription factor gene, named pear EARLY BUD-BREAK (PpEBB), which was highly expressed during the rapid enlargement stage occurring prior to the onset of bud break in flower buds. Gene expression analysis revealed that PpEBB expression was dramatically increased during the rapid enlargement stage in three successive growing seasons. PpEBB transcript levels peaked 1 week prior to onset of bud break in ‘Kosui’ potted plants treated with hydrogen cyanamide or water under forcing conditions. Chromatin immunoprecipitation-quantitative PCR showed that higher levels of active histone modifications (trimethylation of the histone H3 tail at Lys4) in the 5′-upstream and start codon regions of the PpEBB gene were associated with the induced expression level of PpEBB during the rapid enlargement stage. In addition, we provide evidence that PpEBB may interact with and regulate pear four D-type cyclin (PpCYCD3) genes during bud break in ‘Kosui’ lateral flower buds. PpEBB significantly increased the promoter activities of four PpCYCD3 genes in a dual-luciferase assay using tobacco leaves. Taken together, our findings uncovered aspects of the bud break regulatory mechanism in the Japanese pear and provided further evidence that the EBB family plays an important role in bud break in perennial plants.