PLoS biology

Photoperiodic regulation of flowering time through periodic histone deacetylation of the florigen gene FT.

PMID 24019760


The developmental transition from a vegetative to a reproductive phase (i.e., flowering) is timed by the seasonal cue day length or photoperiod in many plant species. Through the photoperiod pathway, inductive day lengths trigger the production of a systemic flowering signal, florigen, to provoke the floral transition. FLOWERING LOCUS T (FT), widely conserved in angiosperms, is a major component of the mobile florigen. In the long-day plant Arabidopsis, FT expression is rhythmically activated by the output of the photoperiod pathway CONSTANS (CO), specifically at the end of long days. How FT expression is modulated at an adequate level in response to the long-day cue to set a proper flowering time remains unknown. Here, we report a periodic histone deacetylation mechanism for the photoperiodic modulation of FT expression. We have identified a plant-unique core structural component of an Arabidopsis histone deacetylase (HDAC) complex. In long days, this component accumulates at dusk, and is recruited by a MADS-domain transcription factor to the FT locus specifically at the end of the day, leading to periodic histone deacetylation of FT chromatin at dusk. Furthermore, we found that at the end of long days CO activity not only activates FT expression but also enables HDAC-activity recruitment to FT chromatin to dampen the level of FT expression, and so prevent precocious flowering in response to the inductive long-day cue. These results collectively reveal a periodic histone deacetylation mechanism for the day-length control of flowering time in higher plants.