Development of aerial and belowground tubers in potato is governed by photoperiod and epigenetic mechanism

Kondhare, Kirtikumar R.; Kumar, Amit; Patil, Nikita S.; Malankar, Nilam N.; Saha, Kishan; Banerjee, Anjan K.


Plants exhibit diverse developmental plasticity and modulate growth responses under various environmental conditions. Potato (Solanum tuberosum), a modified stem and an important food crop, serves as a substantial portion of the world's subsistence food supply. In the past two decades, crucial molecular signals have been identified that govern the tuberization (potato development) mechanism. Interestingly, microRNA156 overexpression in potato provided the first evidence for induction of profuse aerial stolons and tubers from axillary meristems under short-day (SD) photoperiod. A similar phenotype was noticed for overexpression of epigenetic modifiers-MUTICOPY SUPRESSOR OF IRA1 (StMSI1) or ENAHNCER OF ZESTE 2 (StE[z]2), and knockdown of B-CELL-SPECIFIC MOLONEY MURINE LEUKEMIA VIRUS INTEGRATION SITE 1 (StBMI1). This striking phenotype represents a classic example of modulation of plant architecture and developmental plasticity. Differentiation of a stolon to a tuber or a shoot under in vitro or in vivo conditions symbolizes another example of organ-level plasticity and dual fate acquisition in potato. Stolon-to-tuber transition is governed by SD photoperiod, mobile RNAs/proteins, phytohormones, a plethora of small RNAs and their targets. Recent studies show that polycomb group proteins control microRNA156, phytohormone metabolism/transport/signaling and key tuberization genes through histone modifications to govern tuber development. Our comparative analysis of differentially expressed genes between the overexpression lines of StMSI1, StBEL5 (BEL1-LIKE transcription factor [TF]), and POTATO HOMEOBOX 15 TF revealed more than 1,000 common genes, indicative of a mutual gene regulatory network potentially involved in the formation of aerial and belowground tubers. In this review, in addition to key tuberization factors, we highlight the role of photoperiod and epigenetic mechanism that regulates the development of aerial and belowground tubers in potato.