Received: 13 Sep 2020 Revised: 20 Feb 2021 Accepted: 08 Mar 2021 Published online: 01 May 2021
Trees in temperate regions exhibit evident seasonal patterns, which play vital roles in their growth and development. The activity of cambial stem cells is the basis for regulating the quantity and quality of wood, which has received considerable attention. However, the underlying mechanisms of these processes have not been fully elucidated. Here we performed a comprehensive analysis of morphological observations, transcriptome profiles, the DNA methylome, and miRNAs of the cambium in Populus tomentosa during the transition from dormancy to activation. Anatomical analysis showed that the active cambial zone exhibited a significant increase in the width and number of cell layers compared with those of the dormant and reactivating cambium. Furthermore, we found that differentially expressed genes associated with vascular development were mainly involved in plant hormone signal transduction, cell division and expansion, and cell wall biosynthesis. In addition, we identified 235 known miRNAs and 125 novel miRNAs. Differentially expressed miRNAs and target genes showed stronger negative correlations than other miRNA/target pairs. Moreover, global methylation and transcription analysis revealed that CG gene body methylation was positively correlated with gene expression, whereas CHG exhibited the opposite trend in the downstream region. Most importantly, we observed that the number of CHH differentially methylated region (DMR) changes was the greatest during cambium periodicity. Intriguingly, the genes with hypomethylated CHH DMRs in the promoter were involved in plant hormone signal transduction, phenylpropanoid biosynthesis, and plant–pathogen interactions during vascular cambium development. These findings improve our systems-level understanding of the epigenomic diversity that exists in the annual growth cycle of trees.