How Turnip Genes Differently Control When Flowers Bloom

Greg Howard
10th March, 2024

How Turnip Genes Differently Control When Flowers Bloom

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers in Yunnan University found that turnip has four genes influencing when it flowers
  • The gene BrrFT2 is the main trigger for turnip flowering, while BrrFT1 also helps but less so
  • BrrFT4 delays flowering by interfering with BrrFT1 and BrrFT2, whereas BrrFT3 is non-functional
Understanding the timing of flowering in plants isn't just a matter of botanical curiosity; it has significant implications for agriculture, affecting crop yield, biomass, and even the longevity of the plants we depend on for food. At the core of this process is a gene known as FLOWERING LOCUS T (FT), which has been the subject of intense study due to its central role in initiating floral development under certain conditions. Researchers from Yunnan University have recently shed new light on this complex mechanism in turnip, a member of the Brassica family, which includes economically important crops like cabbage and canola[1]. Previous research has established that the timing of flowering is influenced by environmental factors such as the length of day and night, a phenomenon first described a century ago[2]. Central to this process are proteins known as phosphatidylethanolamine-binding proteins (PEBPs), which include FT and its counterparts in other plants[2][3][4]. These proteins are involved in developmental transitions and plant architecture, with FT acting as a 'florigen,' a substance that promotes flowering. In Brassica napus, a close relative of turnip, the TERMINAL FLOWER 1 (TFL1) gene, which also belongs to the PEBP family, has been found to play a role in determining when a plant flowers and its overall structure[4]. Knockout mutants of certain TFL1 gene copies in B. napus have been shown to exhibit early flowering and altered plant architecture, highlighting the gene's role in negatively regulating flowering time and contributing to plant form. Building on these findings, the team at Yunnan University focused on the turnip (Brassica rapa ssp. rapa) and identified four homologs of the FT gene, named BrrFT1, BrrFT2, BrrFT3, and BrrFT4. These genes have different structures and expression patterns, suggesting that they may each play unique roles in the regulation of flowering time. In their study, the researchers found that BrrFT2 is the primary floral inducer, akin to the role of FT in Arabidopsis and Hd3a in rice[2]. BrrFT1 also promotes flowering but to a lesser extent, acting as a milder version of the florigen protein. Interestingly, BrrFT4 seems to have the opposite effect, repressing flowering by competing with BrrFT1 and BrrFT2 for interaction with BrrFD proteins, which are necessary for the activation of flowering. BrrFT3, on the other hand, appears to have lost its function due to a mutation. These findings are significant as they demonstrate the complexity of the FT gene family in turnip and the nuanced roles these genes play in determining the timing of flowering. By understanding these interactions, scientists can potentially manipulate the process to optimize flowering times for better crop yields and adaptability to changing environmental conditions. The study's methods combined genetic analysis with biochemical experiments to unravel these interactions. Identifying the different FT paralogues and their expression patterns provided insights into their potential functions. The researchers then used techniques to disrupt or 'knock out' specific genes to observe the effects on flowering time and plant architecture. The importance of this research lies in its potential applications. By manipulating the expression of these FT genes, it might be possible to control when a plant flowers, which is particularly useful for crops that are sensitive to climatic changes or for extending the growing season. In conclusion, the study from Yunnan University contributes to a growing body of work that seeks to understand the intricacies of flowering time regulation in plants[2][3][4][5]. By identifying and characterizing the roles of FT paralogues in turnip, the researchers have provided valuable insights that could lead to agricultural advancements, ensuring food security in a world where climate and environmental conditions are rapidly changing.

GeneticsPlant ScienceEvolution


Main Study

1) The evolution and functional divergence of FT-related genes in controlling flowering time in Brassica rapa ssp. rapa.

Published 7th March, 2024

Related Studies

2) Molecular regulation of plant developmental transitions and plant architecture via PEPB family proteins: an update on mechanism of action.

3) Photoperiodic flowering in Arabidopsis: Multilayered regulatory mechanisms of CONSTANS and the florigen FLOWERING LOCUS T.

4) Knock-out of TERMINAL FLOWER 1 genes altered flowering time and plant architecture in Brassica napus.

5) Divergent roles of FT-like 9 in flowering transition under different day lengths in Brachypodium distachyon.

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