Different life stages frequently respond to the same environmental cue to regulate development so that each life stage is matched to its appropriate season. We investigated how independently each life stage can respond to shared environmental cues, focusing on vernalization, in Arabidopsis thaliana plants. We first tested whether effects of rosette vernalization persisted to influence seed germination. To test whether genes in the vernalization flowering pathway also influence germination, we assessed germination of functional and nonfunctional alleles of these genes and measured their level of expression at different life stages in response to rosette vernalization. Rosette vernalization increased seed germination in diverse ecotypes. Genes in the vernalization flowering pathway also influenced seed germination. In the Columbia accession, functional alleles of most of these genes opposed the germination response observed in the ecotypes. Some genes influenced germination in a manner consistent with their known effects on FLOWERING LOCUS C gene regulation during the transition to flowering. Others did not, suggesting functional divergence across life stages. Despite persistent effects of environmental conditions across life stages, and despite pleiotropy of genes that affect both flowering and germination, the function of these genes can differ across life stages, potentially mitigating pleiotropic constraints and enabling independent environmental regulation of different life stages.
Keywords: Arabidopsis thaliana; flowering pathway; maternal effects; pleiotropy; seed germination; transgenerational plasticity; vernalization.
© 2017 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2017 New Phytologist Trust.