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1.  A naturally occurring splicing site mutation in the Brassica rapa FLC1 gene is associated with variation in flowering time 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2009;60(4):1299-1308.
FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC), encoding a MADS-domain transcription factor in Arabidopsis, is a repressor of flowering involved in the vernalization pathway. This provides a good reference for Brassica species. Genomes of Brassica species contain several FLC homologues and several of these colocalize with flowering-time QTL. Here the analysis of sequence variation of BrFLC1 in Brassica rapa and its association with the flowering-time phenotype is reported. The analysis revealed that a G→A polymorphism at the 5’ splice site in intron 6 of BrFLC1 is associated with flowering phenotype. Three BrFLC1 alleles with alternative splicing patterns, including two with different parts of intron 6 retained and one with the entire exon 6 excluded from the transcript, were identified in addition to alleles with normal splicing. It was inferred that aberrant splicing of the pre-mRNA leads to loss-of-function of BrFLC1. A CAPS marker was developed for this locus to distinguish Pi6+1(G) and Pi6+1(A). The polymorphism detected with this marker was significantly associated with flowering time in a collection of 121 B. rapa accessions and in a segregating Chinese cabbage doubled-haploid population. These findings suggest that a naturally occurring splicing mutation in the BrFLC1 gene contributes greatly to flowering-time variation in B. rapa.
PMCID: PMC2657548  PMID: 19190098
BrFLC1; flowering time; splicing pattern; splicing site mutation
2.  BrFLC2 (FLOWERING LOCUS C) as a candidate gene for a vernalization response QTL in Brassica rapa 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2010;61(6):1817-1825.
Flowering time is an important agronomic trait, and wide variation exists among Brassica rapa. In Arabidopsis, FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC) plays an important role in modulating flowering time and the response to vernalization. Brassica rapa contains several paralogues of FLC at syntenic regions. BrFLC2 maps under a major flowering time and vernalization response quantitative trait locus (QTL) at the top of A02. Here the effects of vernalization on flowering time in a double haploid (DH) population and on BrFLC2 expression in selected lines of a DH population in B. rapa are descibed. The effect of the major flowering time QTL on the top of A02 where BrFLC2 maps clearly decreases upon vernalization, which points to a role for BrFLC2 underlying the QTL. In all developmental stages and tissues (seedlings, cotyledons, and leaves), BrFLC2 transcript levels are higher in late flowering pools of DH lines than in pools of early flowering DH lines. BrFLC2 expression diminished after different durations of seedling vernalization in both early and late DH lines. The reduction of BrFLC2 expression upon seedling vernalization of both early and late flowering DH lines was strongest at the seedling stage and diminished in subsequent growth stages, which suggests that the commitment to flowering is already set at very early developmental stages. Taken together, these data support the hypothesis that BrFLC2 is a candidate gene for the flowering time and vernalization response QTL in B. rapa.
PMCID: PMC2852669  PMID: 20231331
Brassica rapa; FLOWERING LOCUS C; flowering time; quantitative trait loci; vernalization
3.  A Tourist-like MITE insertion in the upstream region of the BnFLC.A10 gene is associated with vernalization requirement in rapeseed (Brassica napus L.) 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:238.
Rapeseed (Brassica napus L.) has spring and winter genotypes adapted to different growing seasons. Winter genotypes do not flower before the onset of winter, thus leading to a longer vegetative growth period that promotes the accumulation and allocation of more resources to seed production. The development of winter genotypes enabled the rapeseed to spread rapidly from southern to northern Europe and other temperate regions of the world. The molecular basis underlying the evolutionary transition from spring- to winter- type rapeseed is not known, however, and needs to be elucidated.
We fine-mapped the spring environment specific quantitative trait locus (QTL) for flowering time, qFT10-4,in a doubled haploid (DH) mapping population of rapeseed derived from a cross between Tapidor (winter-type) and Ningyou7 (semi-winter) and delimited the qFT10-4 to an 80-kb region on chromosome A10 of B. napus. The BnFLC.A10 gene, an ortholog of FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC) in Arabidopsis, was cloned from the QTL. We identified 12 polymorphic sites between BnFLC.A10 parental alleles of the TN-DH population in the upstream region and in intron 1. Expression of both BnFLC.A10 alleles decreased during vernalization, but decreased more slowly in the winter parent Tapidor. Haplotyping and association analysis showed that one of the polymorphic sites upstream of BnFLC.A10 is strongly associated with the vernalization requirement of rapeseed (r2 = 0.93, χ2 = 0.50). This polymorphic site is derived from a Tourist-like miniature inverted-repeat transposable element (MITE) insertion/deletion in the upstream region of BnFLC.A10. The MITE sequence was not present in the BnFLC.A10 gene in spring-type rapeseed, nor in ancestral ‘A’ genome species B. rapa genotypes. Our results suggest that the insertion may have occurred in winter rapeseed after B. napus speciation.
Our findings strongly suggest that (i) BnFLC.A10 is the gene underlying qFT10-4, the QTL for phenotypic diversity of flowering time in the TN-DH population, (ii) the allelic diversity caused by MITE insertion/deletion upstream of BnFLC.A10 is one of the major causes of differentiation of winter and spring genotypes in rapeseed and (iii) winter rapeseed has evolved from spring genotypes through selection pressure at the BnFLC.A10 locus, enabling expanded cultivation of rapeseed along the route of Brassica domestication.
PMCID: PMC3562271  PMID: 23241244
Rapeseed; Flowering time; Vernalization; Tourist-like MITE; FLOWERING LOCUS C; Association analysis
4.  The Brassica rapa FLC homologue FLC2 is a key regulator of flowering time, identified through transcriptional co-expression networks 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2013;64(14):4503-4516.
The role of many genes and interactions among genes involved in flowering time have been studied extensively in Arabidopsis, and the purpose of this study was to investigate how effectively results obtained with the model species Arabidopsis can be applied to the Brassicacea with often larger and more complex genomes. Brassica rapa represents a very close relative, with its triplicated genome, with subgenomes having evolved by genome fractionation. The question of whether this genome fractionation is a random process, or whether specific genes are preferentially retained, such as flowering time (Ft) genes that play a role in the extreme morphological variation within the B. rapa species (displayed by the diverse morphotypes), is addressed. Data are presented showing that indeed Ft genes are preferentially retained, so the next intriguing question is whether these different orthologues of Arabidopsis Ft genes play similar roles compared with Arabidopsis, and what is the role of these different orthologues in B. rapa. Using a genetical–genomics approach, co-location of flowering quantitative trait loci (QTLs) and expression QTLs (eQTLs) resulted in identification of candidate genes for flowering QTLs and visualization of co-expression networks of Ft genes and flowering time. A major flowering QTL on A02 at the BrFLC2 locus co-localized with cis eQTLs for BrFLC2, BrSSR1, and BrTCP11, and trans eQTLs for the photoperiod gene BrCO and two paralogues of the floral integrator genes BrSOC1 and BrFT. It is concluded that the BrFLC2 Ft gene is a major regulator of flowering time in the studied doubled haploid population.
PMCID: PMC3808329  PMID: 24078668
Brassica rapa; candidate gene mapping; expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL); FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC).; flowering time; gene expression networks; genome triplication.
5.  QTL architecture of reproductive fitness characters in Brassica rapa 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14:66.
Reproductive output is critical to both agronomists seeking to increase seed yield and to evolutionary biologists interested in understanding natural selection. We examine the genetic architecture of diverse reproductive fitness traits in recombinant inbred lines (RILs) developed from a crop (seed oil) × wild-like (rapid cycling) genotype of Brassica rapa in field and greenhouse environments.
Several fitness traits showed strong correlations and QTL-colocalization across environments (days to bolting, fruit length and seed color). Total fruit number was uncorrelated across environments and most QTL affecting this trait were correspondingly environment-specific. Most fitness components were positively correlated, consistent with life-history theory that genotypic variation in resource acquisition masks tradeoffs. Finally, we detected evidence of transgenerational pleiotropy, that is, maternal days to bolting was negatively correlated with days to offspring germination. A QTL for this transgenerational correlation was mapped to a genomic region harboring one copy of FLOWERING LOCUS C, a genetic locus known to affect both days to flowering as well as germination phenotypes.
This study characterizes the genetic structure of important fitness/yield traits within and between generations in B. rapa. Several identified QTL are suitable candidates for fine-mapping for the improvement of yield in crop Brassicas. Specifically, brFLC1, warrants further investigation as a potential regulator of phenology between generations.
PMCID: PMC4004417  PMID: 24641198
Fitness components; Life-history traits; Phenotypic plasticity; Transgenerational effects; Yield; Brassica rapa
6.  A Brassica rapa Linkage Map of EST-based SNP Markers for Identification of Candidate Genes Controlling Flowering Time and Leaf Morphological Traits 
For identification of genes responsible for varietal differences in flowering time and leaf morphological traits, we constructed a linkage map of Brassica rapa DNA markers including 170 EST-based markers, 12 SSR markers, and 59 BAC sequence-based markers, of which 151 are single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers. By BLASTN, 223 markers were shown to have homologous regions in Arabidopsis thaliana, and these homologous loci covered nearly the whole genome of A. thaliana. Synteny analysis between B. rapa and A. thaliana revealed 33 large syntenic regions. Three quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for flowering time were detected. BrFLC1 and BrFLC2 were linked to the QTLs for bolting time, budding time, and flowering time. Three SNPs in the promoter, which may be the cause of low expression of BrFLC2 in the early-flowering parental line, were identified. For leaf lobe depth and leaf hairiness, one major QTL corresponding to a syntenic region containing GIBBERELLIN 20 OXIDASE 3 and one major QTL containing BrGL1, respectively, were detected. Analysis of nucleotide sequences and expression of these genes suggested possible involvement of these genes in leaf morphological traits.
PMCID: PMC2780953  PMID: 19884167
DNA markers; synteny; bolting time; leaf lobe; leaf hairiness
7.  Comparative Analysis of FLC Homologues in Brassicaceae Provides Insight into Their Role in the Evolution of Oilseed Rape 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45751.
We identified nine FLOWERING LOCUS C homologues (BnFLC) in Brassica napus and found that the coding sequences of all BnFLCs were relatively conserved but the intronic and promoter regions were more divergent. The BnFLC homologues were mapped to six of 19 chromosomes. All of the BnFLC homologues were located in the collinear region of FLC in the Arabidopsis genome except BnFLC.A3b and BnFLC.C3b, which were mapped to noncollinear regions of chromosome A3 and C3, respectively. Four of the homologues were associated significantly with quantitative trait loci for flowering time in two mapping populations. The BnFLC homologues showed distinct expression patterns in vegetative and reproductive organs, and at different developmental stages. BnFLC.A3b was differentially expressed between the winter-type and semi-winter-type cultivars. Microsynteny analysis indicated that BnFLC.A3b might have been translocated to the present segment in a cluster with other flowering-time regulators, such as a homologue of FRIGIDA in Arabidopsis. This cluster of flowering-time genes might have conferred a selective advantage to Brassica species in terms of increased adaptability to diverse environments during their evolution and domestication process.
PMCID: PMC3459951  PMID: 23029223
8.  A Companion Cell–Dominant and Developmentally Regulated H3K4 Demethylase Controls Flowering Time in Arabidopsis via the Repression of FLC Expression 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(4):e1002664.
Flowering time relies on the integration of intrinsic developmental cues and environmental signals. FLC and its downstream target FT are key players in the floral transition in Arabidopsis. Here, we characterized the expression pattern and function of JMJ18, a novel JmjC domain-containing histone H3K4 demethylase gene in Arabidopsis. JMJ18 was dominantly expressed in companion cells; its temporal expression pattern was negatively and positively correlated with that of FLC and FT, respectively, during vegetative development. Mutations in JMJ18 resulted in a weak late-flowering phenotype, while JMJ18 overexpressors exhibited an obvious early-flowering phenotype. JMJ18 displayed demethylase activity toward H3K4me3 and H3K4me2, and bound FLC chromatin directly. The levels of H3K4me3 and H3K4me2 in chromatins of FLC clade genes and the expression of FLC clade genes were reduced, whereas FT expression was induced and the protein expression of FT increased in JMJ18 overexpressor lines. The early-flowering phenotype caused by the overexpression of JMJ18 was mainly dependent on the functional FT. Our findings suggest that the companion cell–dominant and developmentally regulated JMJ18 binds directly to the FLC locus, reducing the level of H3K4 methylation in FLC chromatin and repressing the expression of FLC, thereby promoting the expression of FT in companion cells to stimulate flowering.
Author Summary
Flowering is an important developmental transition during plant life cycle and the key process for production of the next generation. Flowering time is controlled by both intrinsic developmental and environmental signals. FLC and its target FT work as repressor and activator, respectively, to regulate flowering time in Arabidopsis; thus the regulation of FLC and FT expression is the key for the control of floral transition. Epigenetic modifications are critical for transcription regulation. Here, we show that a novel JmjC domain-containing histone H3K4 demethylase, JMJ18, is a key regulator for the expression of FLC and FT in companion cells and flowering time. JMJ18 is dominantly expressed in vascular tissue; its temporal expression pattern was developmentally regulated, and negatively and positively correlated with FLC and FT, respectively. JMJ18 mutation leads to weak late-flowering, while JMJ18 overexpressor exhibited an obvious early-flowering phenotype. JMJ18 binds to chromatin of FLC, represses its expression, and releases expression of FT in companion cells. Our results suggest that JMJ18 is a developmentally regulated companion cell–dominantly expressed signal to control flowering time by binding to FLC—reducing level of H3K4 methylation in FLC and repressing expression of FLC—thereby promoting expression of FT in companion cells during vegetative development in Arabidopsis.
PMCID: PMC3334889  PMID: 22536163
9.  FLC-mediated flowering repression is positively regulated by sumoylation 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2013;65(1):339-351.
Sumoylation is critical modification for protein function and stability. Floral transition activity of FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC), a central flowering switch, is increased by sumoylation. E3 SUMO ligase SIZ1 stabilizes FLC, which results in positive regulation of FLC-mediated floral suppression
Flowering locus C (FLC), a floral repressor, is a critical factor for the transition from the vegetative to the reproductive phase. Here, the mechanisms regulating the activity and stability of the FLC protein were investigated. Bimolecular fluorescence complementation and in vitro pull-down analyses showed that FLC interacts with the E3 small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO) ligase AtSIZ1, suggesting that AtSIZ1 is an E3 SUMO ligase for FLC. In vitro sumoylation assays showed that FLC is modified by SUMO in the presence of SUMO-activating enzyme E1 and conjugating enzyme E2, but its sumoylation is inhibited by AtSIZ1. In transgenic plants, inducible AtSIZ1 overexpression led to an increase in the concentration of FLC and delayed the post-translational decay of FLC, indicating that AtSIZ1 stabilizes FLC through direct binding. Also, the flowering time in mutant FLC (K154R, a mutation of the sumoylation site)-overexpressing plants was comparable with that in the wild type, whereas flowering was considerably delayed in FLC-overexpressing plants, supporting the notion that sumoylation is an important mechanism for FLC function. The data indicate that the sumoylation of FLC is critical for its role in the control of flowering time and that AtSIZ1 positively regulates FLC-mediated floral suppression.
PMCID: PMC3883301  PMID: 24218331
AtSIZ1; FLC; flowering; post-translational modification; SUMO; sumoylation.
10.  The evolution of Brassica napus FLOWERING LOCUST paralogues in the context of inverted chromosomal duplication blocks 
The gene FLOWERING LOCUS T (FT) and its orthologues play a central role in the integration of flowering signals within Arabidopsis and other diverse species. Multiple copies of FT, with different cis-intronic sequence, exist and appear to operate harmoniously within polyploid crop species such as Brassica napus (AACC), a member of the same plant family as Arabidopsis.
We have identified six BnFT paralogues from the genome of B. napus and mapped them to six distinct regions, each of which is homologous to a common ancestral block (E) of Arabidopsis chromosome 1. Four of the six regions were present within inverted duplicated regions of chromosomes A7 and C6. The coding sequences of BnFT paralogues showed 92-99% identities to each other and 85-87% identity with that of Arabidopsis. However, two of the paralogues on chromosomes A2 and C2, BnA2.FT and BnC2.FT, were found to lack the distinctive CArG box that is located within intron 1 that has been shown in Arabidopsis to be the binding site for theFLC protein. Three BnFT paralogues (BnA2.FT, BnC6.FT.a and BnC6.FT.b) were associated with two major QTL clusters for flowering time. One of the QTLs encompassing two BnFT paralogues (BnC6.FT.a and BnC6.FT.b) on chromosome C6 was resolved further using near isogenic lines, specific alleles of which were both shown to promote flowering. Association analysis of the three BnFT paralogues across 55 cultivars of B. napus showed that the alleles detected in the original parents of the mapping population used to detect QTL (NY7 and Tapidor) were ubiquitous amongst spring and winter type cultivars of rapeseed. It was inferred that the ancestral FT homologues in Brassica evolved from two distinct copies, one of which was duplicated along with inversion of the associated chromosomal segment prior to the divergence of B. rapa (AA) and B. oleracea (CC). At least ten such inverted duplicated blocks (IDBs) were identified covering a quarter of the whole B. napus genome.
Six orthologues of Arabidopsis FT were identified and mapped in the genome of B. napus which sheds new light on the evolution of paralogues in polyploidy species. The allelic variation of BnFT paralogues results in functional differences affecting flowering time between winter and spring type cultivars of oilseed Brassica. The prevalent inverted duplicated blocks, two of which were located by four of the six BnFT paralogues, contributed to gene duplications and might represent predominant pathway of evolution in Brassica.
PMCID: PMC2794288  PMID: 19939256
11.  Arabidopsis RRP6L1 and RRP6L2 Function in FLOWERING LOCUS C Silencing via Regulation of Antisense RNA Synthesis 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(9):e1004612.
The exosome complex functions in RNA metabolism and transcriptional gene silencing. Here, we report that mutations of two Arabidopsis genes encoding nuclear exosome components AtRRP6L1 and AtRRP6L2, cause de-repression of the main flowering repressor FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC) and thus delay flowering in early-flowering Arabidopsis ecotypes. AtRRP6L mutations affect the expression of known FLC regulatory antisense (AS) RNAs AS I and II, and cause an increase in Histone3 K4 trimethylation (H3K4me3) at FLC. AtRRP6L1 and AtRRP6L2 function redundantly in regulation of FLC and also act independently of the exosome core complex. Moreover, we discovered a novel, long non-coding, non-polyadenylated antisense transcript (ASL, for Antisense Long) originating from the FLC locus in wild type plants. The AtRRP6L proteins function as the main regulators of ASL synthesis, as these mutants show little or no ASL transcript. Unlike ASI/II, ASL associates with H3K27me3 regions of FLC, suggesting that it could function in the maintenance of H3K27 trimethylation during vegetative growth. AtRRP6L mutations also affect H3K27me3 levels and nucleosome density at the FLC locus. Furthermore, AtRRP6L1 physically associates with the ASL transcript and directly interacts with the FLC locus. We propose that AtRRP6L proteins participate in the maintenance of H3K27me3 at FLC via regulating ASL. Furthermore, AtRRP6Ls might participate in multiple FLC silencing pathways by regulating diverse antisense RNAs derived from the FLC locus.
Author Summary
Arabidopsis FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC) delays flowering; therefore, repressing expression of FLC provides a critical mechanism to regulate flowering. This mechanism involves multiple levels of regulation, including genetic regulation by transcription factors, and epigenetic regulation by modifications of genomic DNA and histones at the FLC locus. This work examines the role of non-coding RNAs in the epigenetic regulation of FLC, finding that the different RNAs produced from the FLC locus may have different functions in altering the epigenetic landscape at the FLC locus, and revealing that AtRRP6L1 and AtRRP6L2, two components of the exosome, an RNA-processing complex, play roles in regulating these non-coding RNAs. Therefore, this work explores the complex ties between RNA processing, non-coding RNAs, and epigenetic regulation of FLC, a key repressor of flowering.
PMCID: PMC4161302  PMID: 25211139
12.  Diversity of Flowering Responses in Wild Arabidopsis thaliana Strains 
PLoS Genetics  2005;1(1):e6.
Although multiple environmental cues regulate the transition to flowering in Arabidopsis thaliana, previous studies have suggested that wild A. thaliana accessions fall primarily into two classes, distinguished by their requirement for vernalization (extended winter-like temperatures), which enables rapid flowering under long days. Much of the difference in vernalization response is apparently due to variation at two epistatically acting loci, FRI and FLC. We present the response of over 150 wild accessions to three different environmental variables. In long days, FLC is among those genes whose expression is most highly correlated with flowering. In short days, FRI and FLC are less important, although their contribution is still significant. In addition, there is considerable variation not only in vernalization response, but also in the response to differences in day length or ambient growth temperature. The identification of accessions that flower relatively early or late in specific environments suggests that many of the flowering-time pathways identified by mutagenesis, such as those that respond to day length, contribute to flowering-time variation in the wild. In contrast to differences in vernalization requirement, which are mainly mediated by FRI and FLC, it seems that variation in these other pathways is due to allelic effects at several different loci.
Flowering is a quintessential adaptive trait in plants: Its correct timing ensures, for example, that plants do not produce seeds when they will not find favorable conditions for dispersal or germination. Befitting its importance, flowering is affected by several different environmental variables. The authors have compared the flowering times of over 150 Arabidopsis thaliana wild strains in response to three environmental factors: ambient growth temperature, day length, and vernalization (extended winter-like temperatures). Genetic and molecular analyses confirmed the important role of the previously identified FRI and FLC genes in flowering time. Genome-wide expression studies showed that FLC is among the genes whose expression is most highly correlated with flowering. Their studies, however, also revealed that the impact of FRI and FLC depends not only on vernalization treatment, which leads to repression of FRI and FLC activity, but also on day length. Within the groups of relatively early- and late-flowering strains, they find several unique responses, suggesting that many of the signaling pathways identified in mutant studies of laboratory strains are also being used to generate flowering diversity in the wild.
PMCID: PMC1183525  PMID: 16103920
13.  Functional analysis of the Landsberg erecta allele of FRIGIDA 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14(1):218.
Most of the natural variation in flowering time in Arabidopsis thaliana can be attributed to allelic variation at the gene FRIGIDA (FRI, AT4G00650), which activates expression of the floral repressor FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC, AT5G10140). Usually, late-flowering accessions carry functional FRI alleles (FRI-wt), whereas early flowering accessions contain non-functional alleles. The two most frequent alleles found in early flowering accessions are the ones present in the commonly used lab strains Columbia (FRI-Col) and Landsberg erecta (FRI-Ler), which contain a premature stop codon and a deletion of the start codon respectively.
Analysis of flowering time data from various Arabidopsis natural accessions indicated that the FRI-Ler allele retains some functionality. We generated transgenic lines carrying the FRI-Col or FRI-Ler allele in order to compare their effect on flowering time, vernalization response and FLC expression in the same genetic background. We characterize their modes of regulation through allele-specific expression and their relevance in nature through re-analysis of published datasets. We demonstrate that the FRI-Ler allele induces FLC expression, delays flowering time and confers sensitivity to vernalization in contrast to the true null FRI-Col allele. Nevertheless, the FRI-Ler allele revealed a weaker effect when compared to the fully functional FRI-wt allele, mainly due to reduced expression.
The present study defines for the first time the existence of a new class of Arabidopsis accessions with an intermediate phenotype between slow and rapid cycling types. Although using available data from a common garden experiment we cannot observe fitness differences between accessions carrying the FRI-Ler or the FRI-Col allele, the phenotypic changes observed in the lab suggest that variation in these alleles could play a role in adaptation to specific natural environments.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12870-014-0218-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4158083  PMID: 25207670
Arabidopsis thaliana; Flowering time; FRIGIDA; Vernalization; Natural variation; Allelic series
14.  An Evaluation of Arabidopsis thaliana Hybrid Traits and Their Genetic Control 
G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics  2011;1(7):571-579.
Heterosis is an important phenomenon in agriculture. However, heterosis often greatly varies among hybrids and among traits. To investigate heterosis across a large number of traits and numerous genotypes, we evaluated 12 life history traits on parents and hybrids derived from five Arabidopsis thaliana ecotypes (Col, Ler-0, Cvi, Ws, and C24) by using a complete diallel analysis containing 20 hybrids. Parental contributions to heterosis were hybrid and trait specific with a few reciprocal differences. Most notably, C24 generated hybrids with flowering time, biomass, and reproductive traits that often exceeded high-parent values. However, reproductive traits of C24 and Col hybrids and flowering time traits of C24 and Ler hybrids had no heterosis. We investigated whether allelic variation at flowering time genes FRIGIDA (FRI) and FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC) could explain the genotype- and trait-specific contribution of C24 to hybrid traits. We evaluated both Col and Ler lines introgressed with various FRI and FLC alleles and hybrids between these lines and C24. Hybrids with functional FLC differed from hybrids with nonfunctional FLC for 21 of the 24 hybrid-trait combinations. In most crosses, heterosis was fully or partially explained by FRI and FLC. Our results describe the genetic diversity for heterosis within a sample of A. thaliana ecotypes and show that FRI and FLC are major factors that contribute to heterosis in a genotype and trait specific fashion.
PMCID: PMC3276180  PMID: 22384368
heterosis; FRIGIDA; FLOWERING LOCUS C; diallel; Arabidopsis thaliana
15.  Sequencing, Mapping, and Analysis of 27,455 Maize Full-Length cDNAs 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(11):e1000740.
Full-length cDNA (FLcDNA) sequencing establishes the precise primary structure of individual gene transcripts. From two libraries representing 27 B73 tissues and abiotic stress treatments, 27,455 high-quality FLcDNAs were sequenced. The average transcript length was 1.44 kb including 218 bases and 321 bases of 5′ and 3′ UTR, respectively, with 8.6% of the FLcDNAs encoding predicted proteins of fewer than 100 amino acids. Approximately 94% of the FLcDNAs were stringently mapped to the maize genome. Although nearly two-thirds of this genome is composed of transposable elements (TEs), only 5.6% of the FLcDNAs contained TE sequences in coding or UTR regions. Approximately 7.2% of the FLcDNAs are putative transcription factors, suggesting that rare transcripts are well-enriched in our FLcDNA set. Protein similarity searching identified 1,737 maize transcripts not present in rice, sorghum, Arabidopsis, or poplar annotated genes. A strict FLcDNA assembly generated 24,467 non-redundant sequences, of which 88% have non-maize protein matches. The FLcDNAs were also assembled with 41,759 FLcDNAs in GenBank from other projects, where semi-strict parameters were used to identify 13,368 potentially unique non-redundant sequences from this project. The libraries, ESTs, and FLcDNA sequences produced from this project are publicly available. The annotated EST and FLcDNA assemblies are available through the maize FLcDNA web resource (
Author Summary
To complement the completion of sequencing the maize B73 genome, we sequenced 27,455 full-length cDNAs (FLcDNA) from two maize B73 libraries representing the gene transcripts from most tissues and common abiotic stress conditions. The FLcDNAs are beneficial in determining the exon/intron structure of genes by aligning them to the sequenced genome; 94% of our FLcDNAs aligned to the maize genome. The 27,455 FLcDNAs were compared to gene sequences for rice, sorghum, Arabidopsis, and poplar; 22,874 were found in all four sets, and 1,737 were unique to maize. Two-thirds of the maize genome is composed of a type of repetitive sequence called “transposable elements”; only 5.6% of the FLcDNA sequence contained any segment homologous to these repeats. In addition to our set, there are three other sets of maize FLcDNAs for a total of 69,306 gene transcripts, where many of them are from different maize lines (i.e. FLcDNAs often have only slight differences reflecting divergence). We assembled these together using parameters that would allow most alleles and recently diverged gene transcripts to align together, resulting in 46,739 unique gene transcripts.
PMCID: PMC2774520  PMID: 19936069
16.  The SUMO E3 ligase, AtSIZ1, regulates flowering by controlling a salicylic acid-mediated floral promotion pathway and through affects on FLC chromatin structure 
The Plant Journal   2008;53(3):530-540.
Loss-of-function siz1 mutations caused early flowering under short days. siz1 plants have elevated salicylic acid (SA) levels, which are restored to wild-type levels by expressing nahG, bacterial salicylate hydroxylase. The early flowering of siz1 was suppressed by expressing nahG, indicating that SIZ1 represses the transition to flowering mainly through suppressing SA-dependent floral promotion signaling under short days. Previous results have shown that exogenous SA treatment does not suppress late flowering of autonomous pathway mutants. However, the siz1 mutation accelerated flowering time of an autonomous pathway mutant, luminidependens, by reducing the expression of FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC), a floral repressor. This result suggests that SIZ1 promotes FLC expression, possibly through an SA-independent pathway. Evidence indicates that SIZ1 is required for the full activation of FLC expression in the late-flowering FRIGIDA background. Interestingly, increased FLC expression and late flowering of an autonomous pathway mutant, flowering locus d (fld), was not suppressed by siz1, suggesting that SIZ1 promotes FLC expression by repressing FLD. Consistent with this, SIZ1 facilitates sumoylation of FLD that can be suppressed by mutations in three predicted sumoylation motifs in FLD (i.e. FLDK3R). Furthermore, expression of FLDK3R in fld protoplasts strongly reduced FLC transcription compared with expression of FLD, and this affect was linked to reduced acetylation of histone 4 in FLC chromatin. Taken together, the results suggest that SIZ1 is a floral repressor that not only represses the SA-dependent pathway, but also promotes FLC expression by repressing FLD activity through sumoylation, which is required for full FLC expression in a FRIGIDA background.
PMCID: PMC2254019  PMID: 18069938
SIZ1; SA; flowering; SUMO; FLD; FLC
17.  RNA-seq based SNPs in some agronomically important oleiferous lines of Brassica rapa and their use for genome-wide linkage mapping and specific-region fine mapping 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:463.
Brassica rapa (AA) contains very diverse forms which include oleiferous types and many vegetable types. Genome sequence of B. rapa line Chiifu (ssp. pekinensis), a leafy vegetable type, was published in 2011. Using this knowledge, it is important to develop genomic resources for the oleiferous types of B. rapa. This will allow more involved molecular mapping, in-depth study of molecular mechanisms underlying important agronomic traits and introgression of traits from B. rapa to major oilseed crops - B. juncea (AABB) and B. napus (AACC). The study explores the availability of SNPs in RNA-seq generated contigs of three oleiferous lines of B. rapa - Candle (ssp. oleifera, turnip rape), YSPB-24 and Tetra (ssp. trilocularis, Yellow sarson) and their use in genome-wide linkage mapping and specific-region fine mapping using a RIL population between Chiifu and Tetra.
RNA-seq was carried out on the RNA isolated from young inflorescences containing unopened floral buds, floral axis and small leaves, using Illumina paired-end sequencing technology. Sequence assembly was carried out using the Velvet de-novo programme and the assembled contigs were organised against Chiifu gene models, available in the BRAD-CDS database. RNA-seq confirmed the presence of more than 17,000 single-copy gene models described in the BRAD database. The assembled contigs and the BRAD gene models were analyzed for the presence of SSRs and SNPs. While the number of SSRs was limited, more than 0.2 million SNPs were observed between Chiifu and the three oleiferous lines. Assays for SNPs were designed using KASPar technology and tested on a F7-RIL population derived from a Chiifu x Tetra cross. The design of the SNP assays were based on three considerations - the 50 bp flanking region of the SNPs should be strictly similar, the SNP should have a read-depth of ≥7 and no exon/intron junction should be present within the 101 bp target region. Using these criteria, a total of 640 markers (580 for genome-wide mapping and 60 for specific-region mapping) marking as many genes were tested for mapping. Out of 640 markers that were tested, 594 markers could be mapped unambiguously which included 542 markers for genome-wide mapping and 42 markers for fine mapping of the tet-o locus that is involved with the trait tetralocular ovary in the line Tetra.
A large number of SNPs and PSVs are present in the transcriptome of B. rapa lines for genome-wide linkage mapping and specific-region fine mapping. Criteria used for SNP identification delivered markers, more than 93% of which could be successfully mapped to the F7–RIL population of Chiifu x Tetra cross.
PMCID: PMC3711843  PMID: 23837684
Brassica rapa; RNA-seq; Next generation sequencing; Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP); Paralog specific variation (PSV); Coding DNA Sequences (CDS); KASPar assays
18.  Genome survey sequencing provides clues into glucosinolate biosynthesis and flowering pathway evolution in allotetrapolyploid Brassica juncea 
BMC Genomics  2014;15:107.
Brassica juncea is an economically important vegetable crop in China, oil crop in India, condiment crop in Europe and selected for canola quality recently in Canada and Australia. B. juncea (2n = 36, AABB) is an allotetraploid derived from interspecific hybridization between B. rapa (2n = 20, AA) and B. nigra (2n = 16, BB), followed by spontaneous chromosome doubling.
Comparative genome analysis by genome survey sequence (GSS) of allopolyploid B. juncea with B. rapa was carried out based on high-throughput sequencing approaches. Over 28.35 Gb of GSS data were used for comparative analysis of B. juncea and B. rapa, producing 45.93% reads mapping to the B. rapa genome with a high ratio of single-end reads. Mapping data suggested more structure variation (SV) in the B. juncea genome than in B. rapa. We detected 2,921,310 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with high heterozygosity and 113,368 SVs, including 1-3 bp Indels, between B. juncea and B. rapa. Non-synonymous polymorphisms in glucosinolate biosynthesis genes may account for differences in glucosinolate biosynthesis and glucosinolate components between B. juncea and B. rapa. Furthermore, we identified distinctive vernalization-dependent and photoperiod-dependent flowering pathways coexisting in allopolyploid B. juncea, suggesting contribution of these pathways to adaptation for survival during polyploidization.
Taken together, we proposed that polyploidization has allowed for accelerated evolution of the glucosinolate biosynthesis and flowering pathways in B. juncea that likely permit the phenotypic variation observed in the crop.
PMCID: PMC3925957  PMID: 24502855
Brassica juncea; Comparative genome analysis; Flowering pathway; Genome survey sequencing; Glucosinolate biosynthesis
19.  Suppression of late-flowering and semi-dwarf phenotypes in the arabidopsis clock mutant lhy-12;cca1-101 by phyB under continuous light 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2011;6(8):1162-1171.
Photoperiodic flowering in Arabidopsis is controlled not only by floral activators such as GI, CO and FT, but also by repressors such as SVP and FLC. Double mutations in LHY and CCA1 (lhy;cca1) accelerated flowering under short days, mainly by the GI-CO dependent pathway. In contrast, lhy;cca1 showed delayed flowering under continuous light (LL), probably due to the GI-CO independent pathway. This late-flowering phenotype was suppressed by svp, flc and elf3. However, how SVP, FLC and ELF3 mediate LHY/CCA1 and flowering time is not fully understood. We found that lhy;cca1 exhibited short hypocotyls and petioles under LL, but the molecular mechanism for these effects has not been elucidated.
To address these questions, we performed a screen for mutations that suppress either or both of the lhy;cca1 phenotypes under LL, using two different approaches. We identified two novel mutations, a dominant (del1) and a recessive (phyB-2511) allele of phyB. The flowering times of single mutants of three phyB alleles, hy3-1, del1 and phyB-2511, are almost the same and earlier than those of wild-type plants. A similar level of acceleration of flowering time was observed in all three phyB mutants tested when combined with the late-flowering mutations co-2 and SVPox. However, the effect of phyB-2511 on lhy;cca1 was different from those by hy3-1 or del1. svp-3 did not strongly enhance the early-flowering phenotypes of phyB-2511 or del1. These results suggest that light signaling via PhyB may affect factors downstream of the clock proteins, controlling flowering time and organ elongation. phyB mutations with different levels of effects on lhy;cca1-dependent late flowering would be useful to determine a specific role for PHYB in the flowering pathway controlled by lhy;cca1 under LL.
PMCID: PMC3260714  PMID: 21822060
Arabidopsis thaliana; CCA1; circadian clock; CO; FT; LHY; organ elongation; photoperiodic flowering; PHYB; SVP
20.  Arabidopsis thaliana VOZ (Vascular plant One-Zinc finger) transcription factors are required for proper regulation of flowering time 
Biology Open  2013;2(4):424-431.
Transition to flowering in plants is tightly controlled by environmental cues, which regulate the photoperiod and vernalization pathways, and endogenous signals, which mediate the autonomous and gibberellin pathways. In this work, we investigated the role of two Zn2+-finger transcription factors, the paralogues AtVOZ1 and AtVOZ2, in Arabidopsis thaliana flowering. Single atvoz1-1 and atvoz2-1 mutants showed no significant phenotypes as compared to wild type. However, atvoz1-1 atvoz2-1 double mutant plants exhibited several phenotypes characteristic of flowering-time mutants. The double mutant displayed a severe delay in flowering, together with additional pleiotropic phenotypes. Late flowering correlated with elevated expression of FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC), which encodes a potent floral repressor, and decreased expression of its target, the floral promoter FD. Vernalization rescued delayed flowering of atvoz1-1 atvoz2-1 and reversed elevated FLC levels. Accumulation of FLC transcripts in atvoz1-1 atvoz2-1 correlated with increased expression of several FLC activators, including components of the PAF1 and SWR1 chromatin-modifying complexes. Additionally, AtVOZs were shown to bind the promoter of MOS3/SAR3 and directly regulate expression of this nuclear pore protein, which is known to participate in the regulation of flowering time, suggesting that AtVOZs exert at least some of their flowering regulation by influencing the nuclear pore function. Complementation of atvoz1-1 atvoz2-1 with AtVOZ2 reversed all double mutant phenotypes, confirming that the observed morphological and molecular changes arise from the absence of functional AtVOZ proteins, and validating the functional redundancy between AtVOZ1 and AtVOZ2.
PMCID: PMC3625871  PMID: 23616927
VOZ; Flowering; Arabidopsis; FLC; MOS
21.  Flowering time variation in oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.) is associated with allelic variation in the FRIGIDA homologue BnaA.FRI.a 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2011;62(15):5641-5658.
Oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.) is a major oil crop which is grown worldwide. Adaptation to different environments and regional climatic conditions involves variation in the regulation of flowering time. Winter types have a strong vernalization requirement whereas semi-winter and spring types have a low vernalization requirement or flower without exposure to cold, respectively. In Arabidopsis thaliana, FRIGIDA (FRI) is a key regulator which inhibits floral transition through activation of FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC), a central repressor of flowering which controls vernalization requirement and response. Here, four FRI homologues in B. napus were identified by BAC library screening and PCR-based cloning. While all homologues are expressed, two genes were found to be differentially expressed in aerial plant organs. One of these, BnaA.FRI.a, was mapped to a region on chromosome A03 which co-localizes with a major flowering time quantitative trait locus in multiple environments in a doubled-haploid mapping population. Association analysis of BnaA.FRI.a revealed that six SNPs, including at least one at a putative functional site, and one haplotype block, respectively, are associated with flowering time variation in 248 accessions, with flowering times differing by 13–19 d between extreme haplotypes. The results from both linkage analysis and association mapping indicate that BnaA.FRI.a is a major determinant of flowering time in oilseed rape, and suggest further that this gene also contributes to the differentiation between growth types. The putative functional polymorphisms identified here may facilitate adaptation of this crop to specific environments through marker-assisted breeding.
PMCID: PMC3223056  PMID: 21862478
Association mapping; B. napus; flowering time; FRI; growth type; QTL; vernalization requirement
22.  Quantitative Trait Loci for Thermal Time to Flowering and Photoperiod Responsiveness Discovered in Summer Annual-Type Brassica napus L 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e102611.
Time of flowering is a key adaptive trait in plants and is conditioned by the interaction of genes and environmental cues including length of photoperiod, ambient temperature and vernalisation. Here we investigated the photoperiod responsiveness of summer annual-types of Brassica napus (rapeseed, canola). A population of 131 doubled haploid lines derived from a cross between European and Australian parents was evaluated for days to flowering, thermal time to flowering (measured in degree-days) and the number of leaf nodes at flowering in a compact and efficient glasshouse-based experiment with replicated short and long day treatments. All three traits were under strong genetic control with heritability estimates ranging from 0.85–0.93. There was a very strong photoperiod effect with flowering in the population accelerated by 765 degree-days in the long day versus short day treatments. However, there was a strong genetic correlation of line effects (0.91) between the long and short day treatments and relatively low genotype x treatment interaction indicating that photoperiod had a similar effect across the population. Bivariate analysis of thermal time to flowering in short and long days revealed three main effect quantitative trait loci (QTLs) that accounted for 57.7% of the variation in the population and no significant interaction QTLs. These results provided insight into the contrasting adaptations of Australian and European varieties. Both parents responded to photoperiod and their alleles shifted the population to earlier flowering under long days. In addition, segregation of QTLs in the population caused wide transgressive segregation in thermal time to flowering. Potential candidate flowering time homologues located near QTLs were identified with the aid of the Brassica rapa reference genome sequence. We discuss how these results will help to guide the breeding of summer annual types of B. napus adapted to new and changing environments.
PMCID: PMC4111298  PMID: 25061822
23.  Identification and profiling of novel microRNAs in the Brassica rapa genome based on small RNA deep sequencing 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:218.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are one of the functional non-coding small RNAs involved in the epigenetic control of the plant genome. Although plants contain both evolutionary conserved miRNAs and species-specific miRNAs within their genomes, computational methods often only identify evolutionary conserved miRNAs. The recent sequencing of the Brassica rapa genome enables us to identify miRNAs and their putative target genes. In this study, we sought to provide a more comprehensive prediction of B. rapa miRNAs based on high throughput small RNA deep sequencing.
We sequenced small RNAs from five types of tissue: seedlings, roots, petioles, leaves, and flowers. By analyzing 2.75 million unique reads that mapped to the B. rapa genome, we identified 216 novel and 196 conserved miRNAs that were predicted to target approximately 20% of the genome’s protein coding genes. Quantitative analysis of miRNAs from the five types of tissue revealed that novel miRNAs were expressed in diverse tissues but their expression levels were lower than those of the conserved miRNAs. Comparative analysis of the miRNAs between the B. rapa and Arabidopsis thaliana genomes demonstrated that redundant copies of conserved miRNAs in the B. rapa genome may have been deleted after whole genome triplication. Novel miRNA members seemed to have spontaneously arisen from the B. rapa and A. thaliana genomes, suggesting the species-specific expansion of miRNAs. We have made this data publicly available in a miRNA database of B. rapa called BraMRs. The database allows the user to retrieve miRNA sequences, their expression profiles, and a description of their target genes from the five tissue types investigated here.
This is the first report to identify novel miRNAs from Brassica crops using genome-wide high throughput techniques. The combination of computational methods and small RNA deep sequencing provides robust predictions of miRNAs in the genome. The finding of numerous novel miRNAs, many with few target genes and low expression levels, suggests the rapid evolution of miRNA genes. The development of a miRNA database, BraMRs, enables us to integrate miRNA identification, target prediction, and functional annotation of target genes. BraMRs will represent a valuable public resource with which to study the epigenetic control of B. rapa and other closely related Brassica species. The database is available at the following link: [1].
PMCID: PMC3554443  PMID: 23163954
Brassica rapa; Genome; miRNA; miRNA target; Small RNA sequencing; Database
24.  Repression of FLOWERING LOCUS C and FLOWERING LOCUS T by the Arabidopsis Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 Components 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(10):e3404.
Polycomb group (PcG) proteins are evolutionarily conserved in animals and plants, and play critical roles in the regulation of developmental gene expression. Here we show that the Arabidopsis Polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) subunits CURLY LEAF (CLF), EMBRYONIC FLOWER 2 (EMF2) and FERTILIZATION INDEPENDENT ENDOSPERM (FIE) repress the expression of FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC), a central repressor of the floral transition in Arabidopsis and FLC relatives. In addition, CLF directly interacts with and mediates the deposition of repressive histone H3 lysine 27 trimethylation (H3K27me3) into FLC and FLC relatives, which suppresses active histone H3 lysine 4 trimethylation (H3K4me3) in these loci. Furthermore, we show that during vegetative development CLF and FIE strongly repress the expression of FLOWERING LOCUS T (FT), a key flowering-time integrator, and that CLF also directly interacts with and mediates the deposition of H3K27me3 into FT chromatin. Our results suggest that PRC2-like complexes containing CLF, EMF2 and FIE, directly interact with and deposit into FT, FLC and FLC relatives repressive trimethyl H3K27 leading to the suppression of active H3K4me3 in these loci, and thus repress the expression of these flowering genes. Given the central roles of FLC and FT in flowering-time regulation in Arabidopsis, these findings suggest that the CLF-containing PRC2-like complexes play a significant role in control of flowering in Arabidopsis.
PMCID: PMC2561057  PMID: 18852898
25.  PEP1 of Arabis alpina Is Encoded by Two Overlapping Genes That Contribute to Natural Genetic Variation in Perennial Flowering 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(12):e1003130.
Higher plants exhibit a variety of different life histories. Annual plants live for less than a year and after flowering produce seeds and senesce. By contrast perennials live for many years, dividing their life cycle into episodes of vegetative growth and flowering. Environmental cues control key check points in both life histories. Genes controlling responses to these cues exhibit natural genetic variation that has been studied most in short-lived annuals. We characterize natural genetic variation conferring differences in the perennial life cycle of Arabis alpina. Previously the accession Pajares was shown to flower after prolonged exposure to cold (vernalization) and only for a limited period before returning to vegetative growth. We describe five accessions of A. alpina that do not require vernalization to flower and flower continuously. Genetic complementation showed that these accessions carry mutant alleles at PERPETUAL FLOWERING 1 (PEP1), which encodes a MADS box transcription factor orthologous to FLOWERING LOCUS C in the annual Arabidopsis thaliana. Each accession carries a different mutation at PEP1, suggesting that such variation has arisen independently many times. Characterization of these alleles demonstrated that in most accessions, including Pajares, the PEP1 locus contains a tandem arrangement of a full length and a partial PEP1 copy, which give rise to two full-length transcripts that are differentially expressed. This complexity contrasts with the single gene present in A. thaliana and might contribute to the more complex expression pattern of PEP1 that is associated with the perennial life-cycle. Our work demonstrates that natural accessions of A. alpina exhibit distinct life histories conferred by differences in PEP1 activity, and that continuous flowering forms have arisen multiple times by inactivation of the floral repressor PEP1. Similar phenotypic variation is found in other herbaceous perennial species, and our results provide a paradigm for how characteristic perennial phenotypes might arise.
Author Summary
Perennial plants live for many years and cycle between flowering and vegetative growth. These stages of the life cycle are often initiated by environmental conditions and occur seasonally. However, many herbaceous perennial species such as strawberry, rose, or Arabis alpina contain varieties that flower continuously irrespective of the seasons. Here we characterize this genetic variation in A. alpina and show that five continuously flowering accessions carry independent mutations in the PERPETUAL FLOWERING 1 (PEP1) gene. These mutations impair the activity of the PEP1 floral repressor causing the plants to flower without requirement for winter cold and to flower continuously. This result has interesting parallels with strawberry and rose, where inactivation of a different floral repressor controlling response to day length gives rise to naturally occurring perpetual flowering forms. We also show that PEP1 in A. alpina has a complex duplicated structure that gives rise to two overlapping transcripts. This arrangement differs from the simple structure of PEP1 orthologues in related annual species, such as FLC of Arabidopsis thaliana, suggesting that duplication of PEP1 might contribute to the complex transcriptional patterns associated with PEP1 function in perennials. Our work provides insight into genetic variation contributing to the perennial life history of plants.
PMCID: PMC3527215  PMID: 23284298

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