Many plants are adapted to flower at particular times of year, to ensure optimal pollination and seed maturation. In these plants flowering is controlled by environmental signals that reflect the changing seasons, particularly daylength and temperature. The response to daylength varies, so that plants isolated at higher latitudes tend to flower in response to long daylengths of spring and summer, while plants from lower latitudes avoid the extreme heat of summer by responding to short days. Such responses require a mechanism for measuring time, and the circadian clock that regulates daily rhythms in behaviour also acts as the timer in the measurement of daylength. Plants from high latitudes often also show an extreme response to temperature called vernalisation in which flowering is repressed until the plant is exposed to winter temperatures for an extended time. Genetic approaches in Arabidopsis have identified a number of genes that control vernalisation and daylength responses. These genes are described and models presented for how daylength might regulate flowering by controlling their expression by the circadian clock. BioEssays 22:38-47, 2000.
Copyright 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.