Molecular regulation of temperature-dependent floral induction in Tulipa gesneriana

Leeggangers, Melissa; Nijveen, Harm; Bigas, Judit Nadal; Hilhorst, Henk W.M.; Immink, Richard G.H.


The vegetative-to-reproductive phase change in tulip (Tulipa gesneriana) is promoted by increasing temperatures during spring. The warm winters of recent years interfere with this process and are calling for new adapted cultivars. A better understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms would be of help, but unlike the model plant Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana), very little is known about floral induction in tulip. To shed light on the gene regulatory network controlling flowering in tulip, RNA sequencing was performed on meristem-enriched tissue collected under two contrasting temperature conditions, low and high. The start of reproductive development correlated with rounding of the shoot apical meristem and induction of TGSQA expression, a tulip gene with a high similarity to Arabidopsis APETALA1. Gene Ontology enrichment analysis of differentially expressed genes showed the overrepresentation of genes potentially involved in floral induction, bulb maturation, and dormancy establishment. Expression analysis revealed that TERMINAL FLOWER1 (TgTFL1) and SUPPRESSOR OF OVEREXPRESSION OF CONSTANS1-like1 (TgSOC1-like1) might be repressors, whereas TgSOC1-like2 likely is an activator, of flowering. Subsequently, the flowering time-associated expression of eight potential flowering time genes was confirmed in three tulip cultivars grown in the field. Additionally, heterologous functional analyses in Arabidopsis resulted in flowering time phenotypes in line with TgTFL1 being a floral repressor and TgSOC1-like2 being a floral activator in tulip. Taken together, we have shown that long before morphological changes occur in the shoot apical meristem, the expression of floral repressors in tulip is suppressed by increased ambient temperatures, leading either directly or indirectly to the activation of potential flowering activators shortly before the commencement of the phase change.