Tulipa gesneriana and Lilium longiflorum PEBP Genes and Their Putative Roles in Flowering Time Control

Leeggangers, H.A.C.F.; Nijveen, H.; Rosilio-Brami, T.; Nadal Bigas, Judit; Rubin, N.; Dijk, A.D.J. van; Nunez de Caceres Gonzalez, F.F.; Saadon-Shitrit, S.; Nijveen, H.; Hilhorst, H.W.M.; Immink, G.H.; Zaccai, M.


Floral induction in Tulipa gesneriana and Lilium longiflorum is triggered by contrasting temperature conditions, high and low temperature, respectively. In Arabidopsis, the floral integrator FLOWERING LOCUS T (FT), a member of the PEBP (phosphatidyl ethanolamine-binding protein) gene family, is a key player in flowering time control. In this study, one PEBP gene was identified and characterized in lily (LlFT) and three PEBP genes were isolated from tulip (TgFT1, TgFT2 and TgFT3). Overexpression of these genes in Arabidopsis thaliana resulted in an early flowering phenotype for LlFT and TgFT2, but a late flowering phenotype for TgFT1 and TgFT3. Overexpression of LlFT in L. longiflorum also resulted in an early flowering phenotype, confirming its proposed role as a flowering time-controlling gene. The tulip PEBP genes TgFT2 and TgFT3 have a similar expression pattern in tulip, but show opposite effects on the timing of flowering in Arabidopsis. Therefore, the difference between these two proteins was further investigated by interchanging amino acids thought to be important for the FT function. This resulted in the conversion of phenotypes in Arabidopsis upon overexpressing the substituted TgFT2 and TgFT3 genes, revealing the importance of these interchanged amino acid residues. Based on all obtained results, we hypothesize that LlFT is involved in creating meristem competence to flowering-related cues in lily, and TgFT2 is considered to act as a florigen involved in the floral induction in tulip. The function of TgFT3 remains unclear, but, based on our observations and phylogenetic analysis, we propose a bulb-specific function for this gene.