Heterologous Expression of Wheat VERNALIZATION 2 (TaVRN2) Gene in Arabidopsis Delays Flowering and Enhances Freezing Tolerance
The vernalization gene 2 (VRN2), is a major flowering repressor in temperate cereals that is regulated by low temperature and photoperiod. Here we show that the gene from Triticum aestivum (TaVRN2) is also regulated by salt, heat shock, dehydration, wounding and abscissic acid. Promoter analysis indicates that TaVRN2 regulatory region possesses all the specific responsive elements to these stresses. This suggests pleiotropic effects of TaVRN2 in wheat development and adaptability to the environment. To test if TaVRN2 can act as a flowering repressor in species different from the temperate cereals, the gene was ectopically expressed in the model plant Arabidopsis. Transgenic plants showed no alteration in morphology, but their flowering time was significantly delayed compared to controls plants, indicating that TaVRN2, although having no ortholog in Brassicaceae, can act as a flowering repressor in these species. To identify the possible mechanism by which TaVRN2 gene delays flowering in Arabidopsis, the expression level of several genes involved in flowering time regulation was determined. The analysis indicates that the late flowering of the 35S::TaVRN2 plants was associated with a complex pattern of expression of the major flowering control genes, FCA, FLC, FT, FVE and SOC1. This suggests that heterologous expression of TaVRN2 in Arabidopsis can delay flowering by modulating several floral inductive pathways. Furthermore, transgenic plants showed higher freezing tolerance, likely due to the accumulation of CBF2, CBF3 and the COR genes. Overall, our data suggests that TaVRN2 gene could modulate a common regulator of the two interacting pathways that regulate flowering time and the induction of cold tolerance. The results also demonstrate that TaVRN2 could be used to manipulate flowering time and improve cold tolerance in other species.
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