Fine mapping and epistatic interactions of the vernalization gene VRN-D4 in hexaploid wheat.
ABSTRACT: Wheat vernalization requirement is mainly controlled by the VRN1, VRN2, VRN3, and VRN4 genes. The first three have been cloned and have homoeologs in all three genomes. VRN4 has been found only in the D genome (VRN-D4) and has not been cloned. We constructed a high-density genetic map of the VRN-D4 region and mapped VRN-D4 within a 0.09 cM interval in the centromeric region of chromosome 5D. Using telocentric 5D chromosomes generated from the VRN-D4 donor Triple Dirk F, we determined that VRN-D4 is located on the short arm. The VRN-D4 candidate region is colinear with a 2.24 Mb region on Brachypodium distachyon chromosome 4, which includes 127 predicted genes. Ten of these genes have predicted roles in development but we detected no functional polymorphisms associated to VRN-D4. Two recombination events separated VRN-D4 from TaVIL-D1, the wheat homolog of Arabidopsis vernalization gene VIL1, confirming that this gene is not a candidate for VRN-D4. We detected significant interactions between VRN-D4 and other four genes controlling vernalization requirement (Vrn-A1, Vrn-B1, Vrn-D1, and Vrn-B3), which confirmed that VRN-D4 is part of the vernalization pathway and that it is either upstream or is part of the regulatory feedback loop involving VRN1, VRN2 and VRN3 genes. The precise mapping of VRN-D4 and the characterization of its interactions with other vernalization genes provide valuable information for the utilization of VRN-D4 in wheat improvement and for our current efforts to clone this vernalization gene.
Project description:Wheat varieties with a winter growth habit require long exposures to low temperatures (vernalization) to accelerate flowering. Natural variation in four vernalization genes regulating this requirement has favored wheat adaptation to different environments. The first three genes (VRN1-VRN3) have been cloned and characterized before. Here we show that the fourth gene, VRN-D4, originated by the insertion of a ?290-kb region from chromosome arm 5AL into the proximal region of chromosome arm 5DS. The inserted 5AL region includes a copy of VRN-A1 that carries distinctive mutations in its coding and regulatory regions. Three lines of evidence confirmed that this gene is VRN-D4: it cosegregated with VRN-D4 in a high-density mapping population; it was expressed earlier than other VRN1 genes in the absence of vernalization; and induced mutations in this gene resulted in delayed flowering. VRN-D4 was found in most accessions of the ancient subspecies Triticum aestivum ssp. sphaerococcum from South Asia. This subspecies showed a significant reduction of genetic diversity and increased genetic differentiation in the centromeric region of chromosome 5D, suggesting that VRN-D4 likely contributed to local adaptation and was favored by positive selection. Three adjacent SNPs in a regulatory region of the VRN-D4 first intron disrupt the binding of GLYCINE-RICH RNA-BINDING PROTEIN 2 (TaGRP2), a known repressor of VRN1 expression. The same SNPs were identified in VRN-A1 alleles previously associated with reduced vernalization requirement. These alleles can be used to modulate vernalization requirements and to develop wheat varieties better adapted to different or changing environments.
Project description:MicroRNA396 (miR396) has been demonstrated to regulate flower development by targeting growth-regulating factors (GRFs) in annual species. However, its role in perennial grasses and its potential involvement in flowering time control remain unexplored. Here we report that overexpression of miR396 in a perennial species, creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera L.), alters flower development. Most significantly, transgenic (TG) plants bypass the vernalization requirement for flowering. Gene expression analysis reveals that miR396 is induced by long-day (LD) photoperiod and vernalization. Further study identifies VRN1, VRN2, and VRN3 homologs whose expression patterns in wild-type (WT) plants are similar to those observed in wheat and barley during transition from short-day (SD) to LD, and SD to cold conditions. However, compared to WT controls, TG plants overexpressing miR396 exhibit significantly enhanced VRN1 and VRN3 expression, but repressed VRN2 expression under SD to LD conditions without vernalization, which might be associated with modified expression of methyltransferase genes. Collectively, our results unveil a potentially novel mechanism by which miR396 suppresses the vernalization requirement for flowering which might be related to the epigenetic regulation of VRN genes and provide important new insight into critical roles of a miRNA in regulating vernalization-mediated transition from vegetative to reproductive growth in monocots.
Project description:The transition from vegetative to reproductive development in the temperate cereals is mainly regulated by seasonal cues including vernalization (determined mainly by VRN1 and VRN2 genes) and photoperiod (determined mainly by PPD1 and CO2 genes). The wheat VRN3 gene, which is similar to Arabidopsis FT, plays a central role in the integration of the competing signals from these two pathways. Under long days, VRN3 transcription is down-regulated by VRN2, a unique flowering repressor in cereals, and up-regulated by CO2. Overexpression of VRN3 overcomes VRN2 repression and promotes VRN1 transcription and flowering initiation. Using yeast two- and three-hybrid assays we show here that the CCT domains present in VRN2 and CO2 proteins interact with the same subset of eight NF-Y proteins, and that these CCT proteins compete with NF-YA for interactions with NF-YB proteins. We have confirmed all these interactions in vitro, and the interactions between VRN2 and two of the three NF-YB proteins were further confirmed in planta. In addition, we show that mutations in the CCT domain of VRN2 that eliminate the vernalization requirement in winter wheat also reduce the strength of the interactions between VRN2 and NF-Y proteins, and the ability of VRN2 to compete with CO2. Taken together, our results suggest that the interactions between CCT and NF-Y proteins play an important role in the integration of the vernalization and photoperiod seasonal signals, and provide a flexible combinatorial system to integrate multiple developmental and environmental signals in the regulation of flowering initiation in the temperate cereals.
Project description:Allelic differences at the VRN1 (AP1/CAL/FRU), VRN2 (ZCCT) and VRN3 (FT) vernalization genes affect flowering time in wheat. The two maintained vegetative phase (mvp) mutants from Triticum monococcum L., previously reported as carrying a single gene (VRN1) deletion, are incapable of flowering. In this study, we show that both mvp lines have larger deletions that include the genes AGLG1, CYS, PHYC, VRN1 and possibly others. The original mvp deletions were generated in lines that lack the VRN2 gene. Therefore, to study the effect of the mvp deletions on the regulation of VRN2 we generated populations segregating for both genes simultaneously. The two mvp deletions co-segregated with the non-flowering phenotype, but surprisingly, the lines homozygous for the mvp mutations showed reduced transcript levels of both VRN2 and FT relative to the wild type. The VRN1 deletion is an unlikely cause of the down-regulation of VRN2 since VRN2 transcript levels are higher in the fall, before VRN1 is expressed, and are down-regulated by VRN1. Since both VRN2 and FT are regulated by light and photoperiod, their down-regulation in the mvp mutants might be related to the deletion of the PHYC photoreceptor. However, alternative hypotheses including combinations of other genes deleted in the mvp mutants cannot be ruled out. Until the specific gene(s) responsible for the down-regulation of VRN2 and FT and the non-flowering phenotype are precisely identified, it is premature to use these results to postulate alternative flowering models.
Project description:Most of the natural variation in wheat vernalization response is determined by allelic differences in the MADS-box transcription factor VERNALIZATION1 (VRN1). Extended exposures to low temperatures during the winter (vernalization) induce VRN1 expression and promote the transition of the apical meristem to the reproductive phase. In contrast to its Arabidopsis homolog (APETALA1), which is mainly expressed in the apical meristem, VRN1 is also expressed at high levels in the leaves, but its function in this tissue is not well understood. Using tetraploid wheat lines with truncation mutations in the two homoeologous copies of VRN1 (henceforth vrn1-null mutants), we demonstrate that a central role of VRN1 in the leaves is to maintain low transcript levels of the VRN2 flowering repressor after vernalization. Transcript levels of VRN2 were gradually down-regulated during vernalization in both mutant and wild-type genotypes, but were up-regulated after vernalization only in the vrn1-null mutants. The up-regulation of VRN2 delayed flowering by repressing the transcription of FT, a flowering-integrator gene that encodes a mobile protein that is transported from the leaves to the apical meristem to induce flowering. The role of VRN2 in the delayed flowering of the vrn1-null mutant was confirmed using double vrn1-vrn2-null mutants, which flowered two months earlier than the vrn1-null mutants. Both mutants produced normal flowers and seeds demonstrating that VRN1 is not essential for wheat flowering, which contradicts current flowering models. This result does not diminish the importance of VRN1 in the seasonal regulation of wheat flowering. The up-regulation of VRN1 during winter is required to maintain low transcript levels of VRN2, accelerate the induction of FT in the leaves, and regulate a timely flowering in the spring. Our results also demonstrate the existence of redundant wheat flowering genes that may provide new targets for engineering wheat varieties better adapted to changing environments.
Project description:KEY MESSAGE:The combination of three non-functional alleles of the flowering repressor VRN2 results in a spring growth habit in wheat. In temperate cereals with a winter growth habit, a prolonged exposure to low temperatures (vernalization) accelerates flowering. Before vernalization, the VRN2 locus plays a central role in maintaining flowering repression. Non-functional VRN2 alleles result in spring growth habit and are frequent in diploid wheat and barley. However, in hexaploid wheat, the effect of these non-functional VRN2 alleles is masked by gene redundancy. In this study, we developed a triple VRN2 mutant (synthetic vrn2-null) in hexaploid wheat by combining the non-functional VRN-A2 allele present in most polyploid wheats with a VRN-B2 deletion from tetraploid wheat, and a non-functional VRN-D2 allele from Aegilops tauschii (Ae. tauschii) (the donor of hexaploid wheat D genome). Non-vernalized vrn2-null plants flowered 118 days (P < 2.8E-07) earlier than the winter control, and showed a limited vernalization response. The functional VRN-B2 allele is expressed at higher levels than the functional VRN-D2 allele and showed a stronger repressive effect under partial vernalization (4 °C for 4 weeks), and also in non-vernalized plants carrying only a functional VRN-B2 or VRN-D2 in heterozygous state. These results suggest that different combinations of VRN-B2 and VRN-D2 alleles can be a used to modulate the vernalization response in regions with mild winters. Spring vrn2-null mutants have been selected repeatedly in diploid wheat and barley, suggesting that they may have an adaptative value and that may be useful in hexaploid wheat. Spring wheat breeders can use these new alleles to improve wheat adaptation to different or changing environments.
Project description:In wheat, the vernalization requirement is mainly controlled by the VRN genes. Different species of hexaploid and tetraploid wheat are widely used as genetic source for new mutant variants and alleles for fundamental investigations and practical breeding programs. In this study, VRN-A1 and VRN-B1 were analysed for 178 accessions representing six tetraploid wheat species (Triticum dicoccoides, T. dicoccum, T. turgidum, T. polonicum, T. carthlicum, T. durum) and five hexaploid species (T. compactum, T. sphaerococcum, T. spelta, T. macha, T. vavilovii).Novel allelic variants in the promoter region of VRN-A1 and VRN-B1 were identified based on the change in curvature and flexibility of the DNA molecules. The new variants of VRN-A1 (designated as Vrn-A1a.2, Vrn-A1b.2 - Vrn-A1b.6 and Vrn-A1i) were found to be widely distributed in hexaploid and tetraploid wheat, and in fact were predominant over the known VRN-A1 alleles. The greatest diversity of the new variants of VRN-B1 (designated as VRN-B1.f, VRN-B1.s and VRN-B1.m) was found in the tetraploid and some hexaploid wheat species. For the first time, minor differences within the sequence motif known as the VRN-box of VRN1 were correlated with wheat growth habit. Thus, vrn-A1b.3 and vrn-A1b.4 were revealed in winter wheat in contrast to Vrn-A1b.2, Vrn-A1b.5, Vrn-A1b.6 and Vrn-A1i. It was found that single nucleotide mutation in the VRN-box can influence the vernalization requirement and growth habit of wheat. Our data suggest that both the A-tract and C-rich segment within the VRN-box contribute to its functionality, and provide a new view of the hypothesised role of the VRN-box in regulating transcription of the VRN1 genes. Specifically, it is proposed that combination of mutations in this region can modulate vernalization sensitivity and flowering time of wheat.New allelic variants of the VRN-A1 and VRN-B1 genes were identified in hexaploid and tetraploid wheat. Mutations in A-tract and C-rich segments within the VRN-box of VRN-A1 are associated with modulation of the vernalization requirement and flowering time. New allelic variants will be useful in fundamental investigations into the regulation of VRN1 expression, and provide a valuable genetic resource for practical breeding of wheat.
Project description:Winter wheats require several weeks at low temperature to flower. This process, vernalization, is controlled mainly by the VRN1 gene. Using 6,190 gametes, we found VRN1 to be completely linked to MADS-box genes AP1 and AGLG1 in a 0.03-centimorgan interval flanked by genes Cysteine and Cytochrome B5. No additional genes were found between the last two genes in the 324-kb Triticum monococcum sequence or in the colinear regions in rice and sorghum. Wheat AP1 and AGLG1 genes were similar to Arabidopsis meristem identity genes AP1 and AGL2, respectively. AP1 transcription was regulated by vernalization in both apices and leaves, and the progressive increase of AP1 transcription was consistent with the progressive effect of vernalization on flowering time. Vernalization was required for AP1 transcription in apices and leaves in winter wheat but not in spring wheat. AGLG1 transcripts were detected during spike differentiation but not in vernalized apices or leaves, suggesting that AP1 acts upstream of AGLG1. No differences were detected between genotypes with different VRN1 alleles in the AP1 and AGLG1 coding regions, but three independent deletions were found in the promoter region of AP1. These results suggest that AP1 is a better candidate for VRN1 than AGLG1. The epistatic interactions between vernalization genes VRN1 and VRN2 suggested a model in which VRN2 would repress directly or indirectly the expression of AP1. A mutation in the promoter region of AP1 would result in the lack of recognition of the repressor and in a dominant spring growth habit.
Project description:Low temperatures are required to regulate the transition from vegetative to reproductive growth via a pathway called vernalization. In wheat, vernalization predominantly involves the cold upregulation of the floral activator VERNALIZATION1 (VRN1). Here, we have used an extreme vernalization response, identified through studying ambient temperature responses, to reveal the complexity of temperature inputs into VRN-A1, with allelic inter-copy variation at a gene expansion of VRN-A1 modulating these effects. We find that the repressors of the reproductive transition, VERNALIZATION2 (VRN2) and ODDSOC2, are re-activated when plants experience high temperatures during and after vernalization. In addition, this re-activation is regulated by photoperiod for VRN2 but was independent of photoperiod for ODDSOC2 We also find this warm temperature interruption affects flowering time and floret number and is stage specific. This research highlights the important balance between floral activators and repressors in coordinating the response of a plant to temperature, and that the absence of warmth is essential for the completion of vernalization. This knowledge can be used to develop agricultural germplasm with more predictable vernalization responses that will be more resilient to variable growth temperatures.
Project description:In wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), time from planting to spike emergence is influenced by genes controlling vernalization requirement and photoperiod response. Characterizing the available genetic diversity of known and novel alleles of VERNALIZATION1 (VRN1) and PHOTOPERIOD1 (PPD1) in winter wheat can inform approaches for breeding climate resilient cultivars. This study identified QTL for heading date (HD) associated with multiple VRN1 and PPD1 loci in a population developed from a cross between two early flowering winter wheat cultivars. When the population was grown in the greenhouse after partial vernalization treatment, major heading date QTLs co-located with the VRN-A1 and VRN-B1 loci. Copy number variation at the VRN-A1 locus influenced HD such that RIL having three copies required longer cold exposure to transition to flowering than RIL having two VRN-A1 copies. Sequencing vrn-B1 winter alleles of the parents revealed multiple polymorphisms in the first intron that were the basis of mapping a major HD QTL coinciding with VRN-B1. A 36 bp deletion in the first intron of VRN-B1 was associated with earlier HD after partial vernalization in lines having either two or three haploid copies of VRN-A1. The VRN1 loci interacted significantly and influenced time to heading in field experiments in Louisiana, Georgia and North Carolina. The PPD1 loci were significant determinants of heading date in the fully vernalized treatment in the greenhouse and in all field environments. Heading date QTL were associated with alleles having large deletions in the upstream regions of PPD-A1 and PPD-D1 and with copy number variants at the PPD-B1 locus. The PPD-D1 locus was determined to have the largest genetic effect, followed by PPD-A1 and PPD-B1. Our results demonstrate that VRN1 and PPD1 alleles of varying strength allow fine tuning of flowering time in diverse winter wheat growing environments.