Plants use different light signals to adjust their growth and development to the prevailing environmental conditions. Studies in the model species Arabidopsis thaliana and rice indicate that these adjustments are mediated by large changes in the transcriptome. Here we compared transcriptional responses to light in different species of the Solanaceae to investigate common as well as species-specific changes in gene expression.
cDNA microarrays were used to identify genes regulated by a transition from long days (LD) to short days (SD) in the leaves of potato and tobacco plants, and by phytochrome B (phyB), the photoreceptor that represses tuberization under LD in potato. We also compared transcriptional responses to photoperiod in Nicotiana tabacum Maryland Mammoth (MM), which flowers only under SD, with those of Nicotiana sylvestris, which flowers only under LD conditions. Finally, we identified genes regulated by red compared to far-red light treatments that promote germination in tomato.
Most of the genes up-regulated in LD were associated with photosynthesis, the synthesis of protective pigments and the maintenance of redox homeostasis, probably contributing to the acclimatization to seasonal changes in irradiance. Some of the photoperiodically regulated genes were the same in potato and tobacco. Others were different but belonged to similar functional categories, suggesting that conserved as well as convergent evolutionary processes are responsible for physiological adjustments to seasonal changes in the Solanaceae. A β-ZIP transcription factor whose expression correlated with the floral transition in Nicotiana species with contrasting photoperiodic responses was also regulated by photoperiod and phyB in potato, and is a candidate gene to act as a general regulator of photoperiodic responses. Finally, GIGANTEA, a gene that controls flowering time in Arabidopsis thaliana and rice, was regulated by photoperiod in the leaves of potato and tobacco and by red compared to far-light treatments that promote germination in tomato seeds, suggesting that a conserved light signaling cascade acts across developmental contexts and species.