The wheat VRN2 gene is a flowering repressor down-regulated by vernalization.
ABSTRACT: Plants with a winter growth habit flower earlier when exposed for several weeks to cold temperatures, a process called vernalization. We report here the positional cloning of the wheat vernalization gene VRN2, a dominant repressor of flowering that is down-regulated by vernalization. Loss of function of VRN2, whether by natural mutations or deletions, resulted in spring lines, which do not require vernalization to flower. Reduction of the RNA level of VRN2 by RNA interference accelerated the flowering time of transgenic winter-wheat plants by more than a month.
Project description:Wheat is usually classified as a long day (LD) plant because most varieties flower earlier when exposed to longer days. In addition to LD, winter wheats require a long exposure to low temperatures (vernalization) to become competent for flowering. Here we show that in some genotypes this vernalization requirement can be replaced by interrupting the LD treatment by 6 weeks of short day (SD), and that this replacement is associated with the SD down-regulation of the VRN2 flowering repressor. In addition, we found that SD down-regulation of VRN2 at room temperature is not followed by the up-regulation of the meristem identity gene VRN1 until plants are transferred to LD. This result contrasts with the VRN1 up-regulation observed after the VRN2 down-regulation by vernalization, suggesting the existence of a second VRN1 repressor. Analysis of natural VRN1 mutants indicated that a CArG-box located in the VRN1 promoter is the most likely regulatory site for the interaction with this second repressor. Up-regulation of VRN1 under SD in accessions carrying mutations in the CArG-box resulted in an earlier initiation of spike development, compared to other genotypes. However, even the genotypes with CArG box mutations required LD for a normal and timely spike development. The SD acceleration of flowering was observed in photoperiod sensitive winter varieties. Since vernalization requirement and photoperiod sensitivity are ancestral traits in Triticeae species we suggest that wheat was initially a SD-LD plant and that strong selection pressures during domestication and breeding resulted in the modification of this dual regulation. The down-regulation of the VRN2 repressor by SD is likely part of the mechanism associated with the SD-LD regulation of flowering in photoperiod sensitive winter wheat.
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: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: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: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:By comparing expression levels of MADS box transcription factor genes between near-isogenic winter and spring lines of bread wheat, Triticum aestivum, we have identified WAP1 as the probable candidate for the Vrn-1 gene, the major locus controlling the vernalization flowering response in wheat. WAP1 is strongly expressed in spring wheats and moderately expressed in semispring wheats, but is not expressed in winter wheat plants that have not been exposed to vernalization treatment. Vernalization promotes flowering in winter wheats and strongly induces expression of WAP1. WAP1 is located on chromosome 5 in wheat and, by synteny with other cereal genomes, is likely to be collocated with Vrn-1. These results in hexaploid bread wheat cultivars extend the conclusion made by Yan et al. [Yan, L., Loukoianov, A., Tranquilli, G., Helguera, M., Fahima, T. & Dubcovsky, J. (2003) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 100, 6263-6268] in the diploid wheat progenitor Triticum monococcum that WAP1 (TmAP1) corresponds to the Vrn-1 gene. The barley homologue of WAP1, BM5, shows a similar pattern of expression to WAP1 and TmAP1. BM5 is not expressed in winter barleys that have not been vernalized, but as with WAP1, expression of BM5 is strongly induced by vernalization treatment. In spring barleys, the level of BM5 expression is determined by interactions between the Vrn-H1 locus and a second locus for spring habit, Vrn-H2. There is now evidence that AP1-like genes determine the time of flowering in a range of cereal and grass species.
Project description:In Arabidopsis thaliana, the promotion of flowering by cold temperatures, vernalization, is regulated via a floral-repressive MADS box transcription factor, FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC). Vernalization leads to the epigenetic repression of FLC expression, a process that requires the polycomb group (PcG) protein VERNALIZATION 2 (VRN2) and the plant homeodomain protein VERNALIZATION INSENSITIVE 3 (VIN3). We demonstrate that the repression of FLC by vernalization requires homologues of other Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 proteins and VRN2. We show in planta that VRN2 and VIN3 are part of a large protein complex that can include the PcG proteins FERTILIZATION INDEPENDENT ENDOSPERM, CURLY LEAF, and SWINGER. These findings suggest a single protein complex is responsible for histone deacetylation at FLC and histone methylation at FLC in vernalized plants. The abundance of the complex increases during vernalization and declines after plants are returned to higher temperatures, consistent with the complex having a role in establishing FLC repression.
Project description:Winter wheat and barley varieties require an extended exposure to low temperatures to accelerate flowering (vernalization), whereas spring varieties do not have this requirement. In this study, we show that in these species, the vernalization gene VRN3 is linked completely to a gene similar to Arabidopsis FLOWERING LOCUS T (FT). FT induction in the leaves results in a transmissible signal that promotes flowering. Transcript levels of the barley and wheat orthologues, designated as HvFT and TaFT, respectively, are significantly higher in plants homozygous for the dominant Vrn3 alleles (early flowering) than in plants homozygous for the recessive vrn3 alleles (late flowering). In wheat, the dominant Vrn3 allele is associated with the insertion of a retroelement in the TaFT promoter, whereas in barley, mutations in the HvFT first intron differentiate plants with dominant and recessive VRN3 alleles. Winter wheat plants transformed with the TaFT allele carrying the promoter retroelement insertion flowered significantly earlier than nontransgenic plants, supporting the identity between TaFT and VRN-B3. Statistical analyses of flowering times confirmed the presence of significant interactions between vernalization and FT allelic classes in both wheat and barley (P < 0.0001). These interactions were supported further by the observed up-regulation of HvFT transcript levels by vernalization in barley winter plants (P = 0.002). These results confirmed that the wheat and barley FT genes are responsible for natural allelic variation in vernalization requirement, providing additional sources of adaptive diversity to these economically important crops.
Project description:Winter wheat requires a period of low temperatures to accelerate flowering (vernalization). This requirement could make winter wheat more vulnerable to elevated global temperature via insufficient vernalization. All known vernalization genes are cloned according to qualitative variation in vernalization requirement between spring and winter wheat, but the genes controlling quantitative variation for more or less vernalization requirement among winter wheat cultivars remain unknown. We report here that the gene for the vernalization requirement duration in winter wheat was cloned using a BC(1)F(2:3) population that segregated in a 3:1 ratio of early-flowering plants and late-flowering plants after vernalization for 3 weeks. The positional cloning of the gene for vernalization requirement duration demonstrated that this trait is controlled by TaVRN-A1 at the protein level. The Ala(180) in vrn-A1a, encoded by the dominant allele for 3-week vernalization, was mutated to Val(180) in vrn-A1b, encoded by the recessive allele for 6-week vernalization. Further studies with in vitro protein pull-down assays and immunoprecipitation analyses indicated that the mutated Val(180) in vrn-A1b protein decreased the ability to bind with TaHOX1 (the first homeobox protein in Triticum aestivum). The direct binding of TaVRN-A1 and TaHOX1 proteins was confirmed in the nucleus of living plant cells by bimolecular fluorescence complementation (BiFC) analyses. The TaHOX1 gene was found to be upregulated by low temperatures, and to have a significant genetic effect on heading date, suggesting that TaHOX1 functions in the flowering pathway in winter wheat.