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Relative Telomere Length and Telomerase Reverse Transcriptase (TERT) Expression Are Associated with Age in Almond (Prunus dulcis [Mill.] D.A.Webb)


While all organisms age, our understanding of how aging occurs varies among species. The aging process in perennial plants is not well-defined, yet can have implications on production and yield of valuable fruit and nut crops. Almond exhibits an age-related disorder known as non-infectious bud failure (BF) that affects vegetative bud development, indirectly affecting kernel yield. This species and disorder present an opportunity to address aging in a commercially relevant and vegetatively propagated perennial crop. The hypothesis tested in this study was that relative telomere length and/or telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) expression can serve as biomarkers of aging in almond. Relative telomere lengths and expression of TERT, a subunit of the enzyme telomerase, were measured via qPCR methods using bud and leaf samples collected from distinct age cohorts over a two-year period. Results from this work show a marginal but significant association between both relative telomere length and TERT expression, and age, suggesting that as almonds age, telomeres shorten and TERT expression decreases. This work provides information on potential biomarkers of perennial plant aging, contributing to our knowledge of this process. In addition, these results provide opportunities to address BF in almond breeding and nursery propagation.

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