Dalbergia odorifera, a critically endangered tree species, produces heartwood containing a vast variety of flavonoids. This heartwood, also known as Chinese rosewood, has high economic and medicinal value, but its formation takes several decades. In this study, we showed that discolored wood induced by pruning displays similar color, structure, and flavonoids content to those of natural heartwood, suggesting that wounding is an efficient method for inducing flavonoid production in D. odorifera. Transcriptome analysis was performed to investigate the mechanism underlying wounding-induced flavonoids production in D. odorifera heartwood. Wounding upregulated the expression of 90 unigenes, which covered 19 gene families of the phenylpropanoid and flavonoid pathways, including PAL, C4H, 4CL, CHS, CHI, 6DCS, F3'5'H, F3H, FMO, GT, PMAT, CHOMT, IFS, HI4'OMT, HID, IOMT, I2'H, IFR, and I3'H. Furthermore, 47 upregulated unigenes were mapped to the biosynthesis pathways for five signal molecules (ET, JA, ABA, ROS, and SA). Exogenous application of these signal molecules resulted in the accumulation of flavonoids in cell suspensions of D. odorifera, supporting their role in wounding-induced flavonoid production. Insights from this study will help develop new methods for rapidly inducing the formation of heartwood with enhanced medicinal value.
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