Crop Biotech Update

Plants Help Offspring by Passing on Seasonal Clues

June 13, 2018

Plants integrate seasonal signals such as temperature and day length and use the information to optimize the timing for key lifecycle stages. These transitions include flowering, seed dispersal, and seed dormancy -- a timely tactic used by "mother" plants to ensure seed germination happens in optimal conditions when seedling survival rate is high.

Seasonal sensing requires the activity of two well characterized genes, Flowering Locus C (FLC) and Flowering Locus (FT). FLC is a temperature sensor that acts as a brake to flowering and FT is a daylength sensor. New research led by Professor Steven Penfield of the John Innes Centre (JIC), has identified the precise mechanism by which temperature information is passed from mother to seeds. The research shows that the two genes gather temperature information from the environment and share this with progeny during seed set.

The team discovered that the mother generates diversity, and uses variation in temperature because as temperatures vary, plants produce seeds that are slightly different in size and number. The research finds that the mother plant exploits environmental temperature variation to create diversity in seed type and behavior - a kind of reproductive bet-hedging in which the plant uses temperature information to create a diverse and widely spread offspring.

For more details, read the JIC news release.