A physiological overview of the genetics of flowering time control

Plant Biotechnol J. 2005 Jan;3(1):3-16. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7652.2004.00114.x.


Physiological studies on flowering time control have shown that plants integrate several environmental signals. Predictable factors, such as day length and vernalization, are regarded as 'primary', but clearly interfere with, or can even be substituted by, less predictable factors. All plant parts participate in the sensing of these interacting factors. In the case of floral induction by photoperiod, long-distance signalling is known to occur between the leaves and the shoot apical meristem (SAM) via the phloem. In the long-day plant, Sinapis alba, this long-distance signalling has also been shown to involve the root system and to include sucrose, nitrate, glutamine and cytokinins, but not gibberellins. In Arabidopsis thaliana, a number of genetic pathways controlling flowering time have been identified. Models now extend beyond 'primary' controlling factors and show an ever-increasing number of cross-talks between pathways triggered or influenced by various environmental factors and hormones (mainly gibberellins). Most of the genes involved are preferentially expressed in meristems (the SAM and the root tip), but, surprisingly, only a few are expressed preferentially or exclusively in leaves. However, long-distance signalling from leaves to SAM has been shown to occur in Arabidopsis during the induction of flowering by long days. In this review, we propose a model integrating physiological data and genes activated by the photoperiodic pathway controlling flowering time in early-flowering accessions of Arabidopsis. This model involves metabolites, hormones and gene products interacting as long- or short-distance signalling molecules.