Flowering and fruiting are processes subject to complex control by environmental and endogenous signals. Endogenous signals comprise, besides classical phytohormones, also signaling peptides and miniproteins. Tomato cystine-knot miniproteins (TCMPs), which belong to a Solanaceous-specific group of Cys-rich protein family, have been recently involved in fruit development. TCMP-1 and TCMP-2 display a highly modulated expression pattern during flower and fruit development. A previous study reported that a change in the ratio of the two TCMPs affects the timing of fruit production. In this work, to investigate TCMP-2 mode of action, we searched for its interacting partners. One of the interactors identified by a yeast two hybrid screen, was the B-box domain-containing protein 16 (SlBBX16), whose closest homolog is the Arabidopsis microProtein 1b implicated in flowering time control. We demonstrated the possibility for the two proteins to interact in vivo in tobacco epidermal cells. Arabidopsis plants ectopically overexpressing the TCMP-2 exhibited an increased level of FLOWERING LOCUS T (FT) mRNA and anticipated flowering. Similarly, in previously generated transgenic tomato plants with increased TCMP-2 expression in flower buds, we observed an augmented expression of SINGLE-FLOWER TRUSS gene, the tomato ortholog of FT, whereas the expression of the antiflorigen SELF-PRUNING was unchanged. Consistently, these transgenic plants showed alterations in the flowering pattern, with an accelerated termination of the sympodial units. Overall, our study reveals a novel function for TCMP-2 as regulatory factor that might integrate, thanks to its capacity to interact with SlBBX16, into the signaling pathways that control flowering, and converge toward florigen regulation.
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