Background: The circadian clock and diurnal dynamics of the transcriptome are presumed to play important roles in the regulation of physiological, biological and developmental processes synchronized with diurnal and annual cycles of plant environments. However, little is known about the circadian clock and its regulation in gymnosperms, including conifers. Here we present the diurnal transcriptome dynamics of Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica (L.f.) D.Don) in both active (summer) and dormant (winter) periods. Results: Microarray analysis revealed significant differences in transcripts between summer and winter, and diurnal transcriptome dynamics only in the summer. About 7.7% of unique genes (556 out of 7,254) on the microarray were periodically expressed in summer. Expression patterns of some genes, especially light-related genes, did not show significant oscillation in Japanese cedar, thus differing from those reported in angiosperms. Gene network analysis of the microarray data revealed a network associated with the putative core clock genes (CjLHYa, CjLHYb, CjTOC1, CjGI and CjZTL), which were also isolated, indicating their importance in the diurnal regulation of the transcriptome. Conclusion: This study revealed the existence of core clock genes and diurnal rhythms of the transcriptome in summer in Japanese cedar. Dampening of diurnal rhythms in winter indicated seasonal change in the rhythms according to environmental conditions. The data also revealed genes that showed different expression patterns compared to angiosperms, suggesting a unique gene regulatory network in conifers. This study provides fundamental data to understand transcriptional regulatory mechanisms in conifers.
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