New research provides insight into the biochemistry that makes herbs flower

New research provides insight into the biochemistry that makes herbs flower

Pictured here are two Brachypodium plants. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have identified a gene known as ID1tThe cap helps regulate the gene expression cascade that leads to flowering. The plant on the left blooms normally, thanks to the presence of ID1. In the plant on the right, the mutated ID1 gene led to inappropriate expression of the FT1 and FTL genes, resulting in the plant continuing to produce leaves instead of flowers.

The timing of flowering has major implications for agricultural crops because flowering is an essential stage in their reproductive process. The biochemical pathways leading to flowering have been extensively studied in the model organism Arabidopsis A plant in the mustard family. But there is little research into how these pathways differ in grasses – a distinct and agriculturally important plant family. Now, new research by biochemists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison reveals A The main ingredient in A series of genes that regulate a key protein involved in grass flowering, providing insight into flowering onset in crops such as wheat, rye and barley.

What you need to know

Unable to uproot themselves and forage for food, plants are exceptionally responsive to their environment, acquiring what they need to survive from their immediate surroundings. From sun, soil and rain, for example, plants obtain nutrients and water. Likewise, plants develop mechanisms to make the most of their reproductive efforts by taking cues from their environment—flowers bloom early and are at risk of frost damage; Flower too late and the plant may miss its optimal growing season.

In many plants, the biochemical pathways that lead to flowering are stimulated by specific daylengths (photoperiods) or exposure to long winter cold (photoperiods), ensuring that the onset of flowering is synchronized with appropriate environmental conditions. Some aspects of these pathways are similar across many plant families. For example, all flowering plants need sufficient levels of a protein known as florigin to transition from the growth to reproductive phase of their life cycle.

Regulation of the fluorescent gene family involves a series of upstream genes that are turned on or off, creating a carefully orchestrated pathway dependent on environmental and biochemical cues. Arabidopsis thaliana planta member of the mustard family, has long been the standard model organism for studying plants, including their flowering pathways.

But the genes responsible for regulating the onset of flowering differ between plant species. Only since the early 2000s have plant researchers worked with a model organism representative of temperate grasses: Brachypodium detachment. As a result, little is known about the intricacies of florigen regulation in this plant family.

why does it matter

The timing of flowering can be crucial to agricultural practices. The yield of important agricultural grasses such as wheat, rye and barley depends heavily on environmental factors such as day length and temperature. Efficient harvesting depends on the synchronized timing of flower production across the field.

For these reasons, flowering timing is a key trait that scientists take into account when breeding crops to improve productivity. Discoveries about the genes that control flowering timing could provide essential clues to plant breeders aiming to develop crops well adapted to a particular climate, which in turn could benefit farmers' crop yields.

How our scientists made progress

Portrait in studio, man smiling from the waist up.  He stands behind a tray of lush green grass, which extends over the bottom of the frame.

Rick Amassino, professor of biochemistry, leads the Amassino Lab, where researchers study plant evolution and what makes plants flower.

Researchers in the Amasino laboratory in the Department of Biochemistry have identified the gene responsible for regulating florigen genes in temperate grasses. Their findings, recently published in PNAS, reveal new insights into the biochemical pathway responsible for flower production.

A group of fluorescent genes known as Flowering Locus T (FT) and FT-like genes (FTL) are common in many temperate grasses. Researchers used Brachypodium To explore how a temperate grass-specific upstream gene, Indeterminate1 (ID1), affects the expression of FT and FTL genes.

The presence of ID1 was required for the expression of several FT and FTL genes, suggesting that ID1 is involved in the regulation of these florigen-producing genes. Among other findings, the researchers demonstrated that mutations in the ID1 gene suppress FTL gene expression, which can lead to delayed flowering even when the plant is exposed to ideal environmental conditions.

These results identify the ID1 gene as an important part of the flower production pathway in temperate grasses. The research is a crucial step towards understanding how the genes responsible for flowering work in grasses such as Brachypodium Different from the paths discovered by scientists Arabidopsis.

Read more in the Biochemistry Department series Research in brief: what, why and how From new research exploring the world around us – and within us.


This research was funded in part by the US National Science Foundation (IOS-1755224), the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research (DE-SC0018409), and the College. Agricultural and Life Sciences and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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