How Flowering Is Boosted in Tomatoes by a Specific Plant Hormone Interaction

Jenn Hoskins
6th May, 2024

How Flowering Is Boosted in Tomatoes by a Specific Plant Hormone Interaction

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In a study at Turin University, higher strigolactone levels in tomatoes led to earlier, more abundant flowering
  • Strigolactones increase the activity of a gene crucial for flowering, enhancing the plant's transition to the reproductive stage
  • The study suggests that controlling strigolactone levels could help farmers manage crop flowering times and yields
Understanding the timing and intensity of flowering in plants is crucial for agriculture, as it influences crop yield and quality. Researchers at Turin University have made a significant contribution to this field by investigating the role of a class of phytohormones known as strigolactones in tomato plants' reproductive development[1]. Strigolactones are chemicals produced by plants that have been recognized for their roles in controlling various aspects of plant growth and response to environmental stress. Until recently, their influence on flowering was not well understood. The study from Turin University demonstrates that the levels of strigolactones in tomato plants are inversely related to the timing of flowering (anthesis) and directly related to the number of flowers produced. This means that higher levels of strigolactones can lead to earlier and more abundant flowering. The researchers discovered that strigolactones affect the expression of a gene called SINGLE FLOWER TRUSS (SFT), which is known to encode the flowering hormone florigen[2]. Florigen is a key player in the transition from vegetative growth to flowering. The study found that strigolactones increase the transcription of the SFT gene in the leaves, which in turn promotes flowering. Delving deeper into the molecular mechanisms, the study revealed that strigolactones activate a specific module in the leaves, consisting of a microRNA called miR319 and its target gene LANCEOLATE. This module affects the levels of another hormone, gibberellin, which is known to inhibit the production of florigen. By reducing gibberellin levels, strigolactones indirectly boost SFT transcription and, consequently, flowering. Furthermore, the study showed that treating tomato plants with strigolactones induced several floral markers and morpho-anatomical features in the apical meristems, the plant tissue where new growth takes place. This indicates that strigolactones not only trigger the transition to flowering but also enhance the development of the flowers themselves. One particularly interesting aspect of this research is the finding that the effects of strigolactones on flowering are blocked in plants that have been genetically modified to express a version of LANCEOLATE that is resistant to miR319. This suggests that the miR319-LANCEOLATE module is a crucial mediator of strigolactone action in the regulation of flowering. This study contributes to a broader understanding of the genetic and environmental factors that govern flowering time in plants. Previous research has shown that various stimuli, such as nutrients, temperature, and stress, can affect when and how plants flower[3]. The findings from Turin University add another piece to the puzzle by linking strigolactones to the complex network of signals that control this vital process. The implications of this research are significant for agriculture. By manipulating strigolactone levels, either genetically or chemically, farmers could potentially control the timing and abundance of flowering to increase crop yields. This could be particularly valuable in the face of changing climate conditions, where the ability to adapt flowering times could be crucial for the survival of certain crops. Moreover, the study builds on the concept of heterosis, where crossing different plant varieties can lead to offspring with increased vigor and yields[2]. Understanding the genetic basis of traits like flowering time could help in developing hybrid plants that capitalize on this phenomenon for enhanced agricultural productivity. In summary, the research from Turin University offers new insights into the role of strigolactones in the regulation of flowering in tomato plants. By elucidating the molecular pathways through which these hormones operate, this study provides valuable information that could be used to improve crop management and breeding strategies, ensuring food security in an ever-changing global environment.

GeneticsBiochemPlant Science


Main Study

1) Strigolactones promote flowering by inducing the miR319-LA-SFT module in tomato.

Published 7th May, 2024 (future Journal edition)

Related Studies

2) The flowering gene SINGLE FLOWER TRUSS drives heterosis for yield in tomato.

3) The control of flowering time by environmental factors.

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