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Nature. 2009 May 21;459(7245):423-7. doi: 10.1038/nature07988. Epub 2009 Apr 15.

PEP1 regulates perennial flowering in Arabis alpina.

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Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Carl von Linne Weg 10, D-50829 Cologne, Germany.


Annual plants complete their life cycle in one year and initiate flowering only once, whereas perennials live for many years and flower repeatedly. How perennials undergo repeated cycles of vegetative growth and flowering that are synchronized to the changing seasons has not been extensively studied. Flowering is best understood in annual Arabidopsis thaliana, but many closely related species, such as Arabis alpina, are perennials. We identified the A. alpina mutant perpetual flowering 1 (pep1), and showed that PEP1 contributes to three perennial traits. It limits the duration of flowering, facilitating a return to vegetative development, prevents some branches from undergoing the floral transition allowing polycarpic growth habit, and confers a flowering response to winter temperatures that restricts flowering to spring. Here we show that PEP1 is the orthologue of the A. thaliana gene FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC). The FLC transcription factor inhibits flowering until A. thaliana is exposed to winter temperatures, which trigger chromatin modifications that stably repress FLC transcription. In contrast, PEP1 is only transiently repressed by low temperatures, causing repeated seasonal cycles of repression and activation of PEP1 transcription that allow it to carry out functions characteristic of the cyclical life history of perennials. The patterns of chromatin modifications at FLC and PEP1 differ correlating with their distinct expression patterns. Thus we describe a critical mechanism by which flowering regulation differs between related perennial and annual species, and propose that differences in chromatin regulation contribute to this variation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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