The morphology of inflorescences is regulated in part by the temporal and spatial events that regulate flower specification. In Arabidopsis, an endogenous flowering time pathway mediated by a subset of SQUAMOSA PROMOTER-BINDING PROTEIN-LIKE (SPL) transcription factors, including SPL3, SPL4, and SPL5, function to specify flowers by activating floral meristem identity genes. During shoot development, SPL3, SPL4, and SPL5 are post-transcriptionally regulated by microRNA156 (miR156). The photoperiod regulated florigenic signal, FLOWERING LOCUS T (FT), promotes floral induction, in part by activating SPL3, SPL4, and SPL5. In turn, these SPLs function in parallel with FT to specify flower meristems. Two related BELL1-like homeobox genes PENNYWISE (PNY) and POUND-FOOLISH (PNF) expressed in the shoot apical meristem are absolutely required for the specification of floral meristems. Genetic studies show that the floral specification function of FT depends upon PNY and PNF; however, the interplay between these homeodomain proteins and SPLs is not known. In this manuscript, we show that the photoperiodic floral induction of SPL3, SPL4, and SPL5 is dependent upon PNY and PNF. Further, PNY and PNF also control SPL3, SPL4, and SPL5 expression by negatively regulating miR156. Lastly, ectopic expression of SPL4 partially rescues the pny pnf non-flower-producing phenotype, while overexpression of SPL3 or SPL5 in pny pnf plants was unable to restore flower specification. These results suggest that: (1) SPL3, SPL4, and SPL5 function is dependent upon PNY and PNF, or (2) expression of multiple SPLs is required for floral specification in pny pnf plants.
© The Author 2011. Published by the Molecular Plant Shanghai Editorial Office in association with Oxford University Press on behalf of CSPB and IPPE, SIBS, CAS.