Canadian Forest Service Publications

Scientific research related to genetically modified trees. 2014. Séguin, A.; Lachance, D.; Déjardin, A.; Leplé, J.-C.; Pilate, G. Pages 525-548 in Fanning, T., ed. Challenges and Opportunities for the World’s Forests in the 21st Century, Springer.

Year: 2014

Available from: Laurentian Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 36700

Language: English

CFS Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)


Over the last decade, we have witnessed impressive advances in tree molecular biology and the consolidation of tree genomics. We have essentially moved from a small portfolio of genes focusing on a specific genetic trait to large databases including thousands of genes and their respective expression profiles. In 2006, we saw the publication of the first genomic sequence of a tree, the model tree species Populus trichocarpa. Though, not surprisingly, much progress has been made with Populus, impressive research results have also been realized in more recalcitrant coniferous species such as pines and spruces. Despite the rapid advances in tree genomics, tree genetic engineering (GE) proved to be a bottleneck requiring the development of whole-tree regeneration protocols using in vitro culture and an effective method of DNA transfer. The introduction of simple single gene traits such as insect resistance was the early target of tree genetic engineers. Today more tree species are compatible with GE and at a higher throughput, making functional genomics approaches possible to improve our understanding of gene functions. In this chapter we will provide an historical overview of the advances made in GE of trees. We will also explore the various applications of tree GE to improving response to biotic and abiotic stresses, which is becoming more important in an ever-changing environment. Improvement of specific traits for tree domestication will also be covered. Lastly, we will briefly discuss issues related to the regulation of GM trees, particularly concerning genetic containment and environmental risk assessment.

Plain Language Summary

The authors of this article provide some background on advances made in forest genomics. They also describe possible applications for this science to improve how trees respond to increasingly frequent biotic or abiotic stresses. The article concludes with a discussion on regulatory issues regarding genetically modified trees.

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