In many angiosperm plants, FLOWERING LOCUS T (FT)-like genes have duplicated and functionally diverged to control different reproductive traits or stages. Barley (Hordeum vulgare) carries several FT-like genes, the functions of which are not well understood. We characterized the role of HvFT3 in the vegetative and reproductive development of barley. Overexpression of HvFT3 accelerated the initiation of spikelet primordia and the early reproductive development of spring barley independently of the photoperiod. However, HvFT3 overexpression did not accelerate floral development, and inflorescences aborted under short days, suggesting that HvFT3 controls spikelet initiation but not floral development. Analysis of a nonfunctional HvFT3 allele supported the specific effects of this gene on spikelet initiation independent of the photoperiod. HvFT3 caused the up-regulation of the winter and spring alleles of the vernalization gene VERNALIZATION1 (VRN-H1) in nonvernalized plants and was therefore dominant over the repressive effects of the vernalization pathway. Global transcriptome analysis in developing main shoot apices of the transgenic lines showed that HvFT3 modified the expression of genes involved in hormone synthesis and response, of floral homeotic genes, and of barley row-type genes SIX-ROWED-SPIKE1 (VRS1), SIX-ROWED-SPIKE4 (VRS4), and INTERMEDIUM C Understanding the specific functions of individual FT-like genes will allow modification of individual phases of preanthesis development and thereby adaptation to different environments and improved yield.
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