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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Jul 14;106(28):11661-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0901367106. Epub 2009 Jun 29.

Major flowering time gene, flowering locus C, regulates seed germination in Arabidopsis thaliana.

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Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


Flowering locus C (FLC) is a major regulator of flowering responses to seasonal environmental factors. Here, we document that FLC also regulates another major life-history transition-seed germination, and that natural variation at the FLC locus and in FLC expression is associated with natural variation in temperature-dependent germination. FLC-mediated germination acts through additional genes in the flowering pathway (FT, SOC1, and AP1) before involving the abscisic acid catabolic pathway (via CYP707A2) and gibberellins biosynthetic pathway (via GA20ox1) in seeds. Also, FLC regulation of germination is largely maternally controlled, with FLC peaking and FT, SOC1, and AP1 levels declining at late stages of seed maturation. High FLC expression during seed maturation is associated with altered expression of hormonal genes (CYP707A2 and GA20ox1) in germinating seeds, indicating that gene expression before the physiological independence of seeds can influence gene expression well after any physical connection between maternal plants and seeds exists. The major role of FLC in temperature-dependent germination documented here reveals a much broader adaptive significance of natural variation in FLC. Therefore, pleiotropy between these major life stages likely influences patterns of natural selection on this important gene, making FLC a promising case for examining how pleiotropy influences adaptive evolution.

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