The Arabidopsis TALE homeobox gene ATH1 controls floral competency through positive regulation of FLC

Marcel Proveniers, Bas Rutjens, Marco Brand, Sjef Smeekens
Plant Journal 2007, 52 (5): 899-913
Floral induction is controlled by a plethora of genes acting in different pathways that either repress or promote floral transition at the shoot apical meristem (SAM). During vegetative development high levels of floral repressors maintain the Arabidopsis SAM as incompetent to respond to promoting factors. Among these repressors, FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC) is the most prominent. The processes underlying downregulation of FLC in response to environmental and developmental signals have been elucidated in considerable detail. However, the basal induction of FLC and its upregulation by FRIGIDA (FRI) are still poorly understood. Here we report the functional characterization of the ARABIDOPSIS THALIANA HOMEOBOX 1 (ATH1) gene. A function of ATH1 in floral repression is suggested by a gradual downregulation of ATH1 in the SAM prior to floral transition. Further evidence for such a function of ATH1 is provided by the vernalization-sensitive late flowering of plants that constitutively express ATH1. Analysis of lines that differ in FRI and/or FLC allele strength show that this late flowering is caused by upregulation of FLC as a result of synergism between ATH1 overexpression and FRI. Lack of ATH1, however, results in attenuated FLC levels independently of FRI, suggesting that ATH1 acts as a general activator of FLC expression. This is further corroborated by a reduction of FLC-mediated late flowering in fca-1 and fve-1 autonomous pathway backgrounds when combined with ath1. Since other floral repressors of the FLC clade are not significantly affected by ATH1, we conclude that ATH1 controls floral competency as a specific activator of FLC expression.

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