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Molecular analysis of petal senescence and flower shelf life

Gene expression in petals of Alstroemeria after harvest

Cut flowers are a rapidly growing sector of the horticultural industry and improving quality and longevity to the consumer is an important objective. There are a number of commercial treatments available to prolong the vase-life of species in which senescence is controlled by ethylene, however in many floral crops such as Alstroemeria floral senescence is independent of ethylene. In these cases, the mechanisms by which senescence is controlled are not understood but an important issue in obtaining maximal vase life is the handling of flowers in the supply chain. We are using molecular techniques to identify genes that show differential expression after Alstromeria flowers are harvested. The aim is to use the expression levels of selected genes to monitor the effects of different storage treatments and to predict the potential shelf life of a batch of flowers. Suppressive subtractive hybridisation has been used to create gene libraries specific to a particular stage of flower development. These genes were placed on a microarray and probed with RNA from developmental stages from immature to fully senescent.


Gene expression in flowers subjected to different treatments designed to affect petal longevity has been analysed on the microarray and genes that act as potential predictive markers have been identified, These could form a useful basis for a diagnostic kit.

Collaborators on this project

Prof Brian Thomas, Life Sciences
Dr Tony Stead and Dr Carol Wagstaff, Royal Holloway College, University of London
Dr Hilary Rogers, Cardiff University


Breeze E, Wagstaff C, Harrison E, Bramke I, Rogers H, Stead A, Thomas B and Buchanan-Wollaston V (2004) Gene expression patterns to define stages of post harvest senescence in Alstroemeria petals. Plant Biotechnology Journal 2, 155-168.

A.D. Stead, P. Malcolm, V. Buchanan-Wollaston, B. Thomas, E. Breeze, L-J. Laarhoven, F. Harren, H.J. Rogers and C. Wagstaff. (2003) Ethylene and Alstroemeria flowers – a grey area. Biology and Biotechnology of the Plant Hormone Ethylene III. M. Vendrell et al (Eds.) IOS Press. Pp340-344.

Wagstaff, C., Bramke, I., Breeze, E., Buchanan-Wollaston, V., Thomas, B., Rogers, H.J. and Stead, A.D. Global changes in gene expression during Alstroemeria petal senescence. Acta Horticulturae. 669.