Make hay when the sun shines: the role of MADS-box genes in temperature-dependant seasonal flowering responses

Megan N Hemming, Ben Trevaskis
Plant Science: An International Journal of Experimental Plant Biology 2011, 180 (3): 447-53
MADS-box transcription factors specify plant meristem identity. In doing so, they determine when floral organs are produced at the shoot apex and control the timing of flowering. The transcriptional activity of key MADS-box genes is controlled by temperature in many plants, and this synchronises flowering with changing seasons. Here we review how seasonal temperature variation influences the developmental programme of plants via transcriptional regulation of MADS-box genes. In particular we examine the role of MADS-box genes in regulating the acceleration of flowering by vernalization (prolonged periods of cold), using FLOWERING LOCUS C of Arabidopsis and VERNALIZATION1 of cereals as examples. A potential role for SHORT VEGETATIVE PHASE-like genes in controlling winter bud dormancy is also examined, as are potential roles for MADS-box genes in regulating developmental responses to elevated growth temperatures. We conclude that understanding how temperature regulates the transcription of MADS-box genes provides insight into how seasonal fluctuations in temperature influence plant development. Plant breeders may be able to use natural variation in temperature-responsive MADS-box genes to breed future crop varieties.

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