Sugar influences the onset of flowering, study finds

February 7, 2013
In experiments in Arabidopsis thaliana, the team found that the sugar molecule trehalose-6-phosphate influences the onset of flowering. © Josef Bergstein/ MPI-MP

(—A plant can reproduce successfully only if it flowers at the appropriate time. Therefore, a complex network of photoreceptors and other proteins has evolved to monitor environmental conditions such as light and temperature. It has long been thought that plants must also ensure that they have sufficient resources for the energy intensive process of building flowers. As scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam and the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen now report, the sugar molecule trehalose-6-phosphate (T6P) takes on a key role in monitoring energy reserves in thale cress, Arabidopsis thaliana, thereby controlling flowering time in relation to energy reserves.

Day length is critical for regulating flowering time in a wide range of species. Some plants need long days and thus flower in summer, while others need short days and accordingly flower in spring or autumn. When the appropriate day length is perceived in leaves, an interplay of and other proteins leads to expression of the FLOWERING T (FT) gene. The FT protein then migrates to the tip of the shoot, where it triggers the formation of flowers instead of leaves.

However, once it reaches a certain age, thale cress produces flowers independently of day length. This safety mechanism is controlled by a specific , serving as a redundant pathway ensuring eventual flowering.

In addition to light and age, the energy status is also thought to have an influence on flowering time. The formation of flowers is an energy-intensive process, and this energy must be available to the plant in the form of sugar. How sugar molecules might help determine the onset of flowering has long been unknown. Now researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology and the Max Planck Institute for report that the sugar molecule T6P influences both signalling pathways described above.

"Since plants contain only minute amounts of T6P, it has been suspected that it could be a signalling molecule", explains Vanessa Wahl, lead author of the paper. "However, until now nobody knew how T6P interacted with the complex genetic network that regulates the onset of flowering." By blocking the production of T6P, Wahl and her colleagues could delay flowering and in extreme cases stop it altogether. This held true even when the plants were grown under highly inductive conditions. "We were able to show that this sugar is indispensable for the production of the FT protein in the leaves", adds corresponding author Markus Schmid, "and, as we know, flowering without FT is greatly delayed."

In addition, T6P influences both the production of the age pathway microRNA and the expression of its target genes. This means that this regulates two of the most important pathways that control the onset of flowering.

"Even though it was clear that the plant had to check its energy levels before flowering started, there was no explanation about how that could work at the molecular level", Vanessa Wahl describes. In revealing the molecular links between and sugar status, this stands as an important contribution to our understanding of the that regulates flowering.

Explore further: Scientists discover 'switch' in plants to create flowers

More information: Vanessa Wahl, Jathish Ponnu, Armin Schlereth, Stéphanie Arrivault, Tobias Langenecker, Annika Franke, Regina Feil, John E. Lunn, Mark Stitt, Markus Schmid, Regulation of Flowering Time by Trehalose-6-phosphate Signalling in Arabidopsis thaliana, Science; February 8, 2013; DOI: 10.1126/science.1230406

Related Stories

Geneticists shed light on flowering plants

June 29, 2010

A team of researchers from Warwick have isolated a gene responsible for regulating the expression of CONSTANS, an important inducer of flowering, in Arabidopsis.

Flowering Signal Found

June 9, 2007

The signal that causes plants to flower, or "florigen," has been identified by researchers at UC Davis, the University of Arizona, Tucson, and collaborators in New Zealand and Mexico.

Recommended for you

The song of silence

December 8, 2016

Like humans learning to speak, juvenile birds learn to sing by mimicking vocalizations of adults of the same species during development. Juvenile birds preferentially learn the song of their own species, even in noisy environments ...

An anti-CRISPR for gene editing

December 8, 2016

Researchers have discovered a way to program cells to inhibit CRISPR-Cas9 activity. "Anti-CRISPR" proteins had previously been isolated from viruses that infect bacteria, but now University of Toronto and University of Massachusetts ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Feb 08, 2013
Since marijuana is one of those plants, it flowers when it gets down to 12 hours of light, this will be important soon.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.