Evolutionary biologists from the University of Zurich have identified two genes that indicate when the plants are about to flower. By monitoring these genes specifically, scientists are better able to predict when mass flowering will occur. This means that plant seeds can be collected in a targeted manner and used for reforestation.
The study species, Shorea beccariana
Community-level mass flowering (general flowering) in the Lambir Hills National Park in Borneo 2009 (Malaysia).
Tropical plants flower at supra-annual irregular intervals. In addition, mass flowering is typical for the tropical forests in Borneo and elsewhere, where hundreds of different plant timber species from the Dipterocarpaceae family flower synchronously. This phenomenon is all the more puzzling because both temperature and day length are relatively constant all year round due to geographical proximity to the equator. Up to now it was supposed that several weeks of drought may trigger mass flowering in Borneo's forests. However, no empirical data and genetic analyses were available.
An international research team headed up by evolutionary biologists at the University of Zurich has now identified two genes responsible for the flowering of a tropical deciduous tree species Shorea beccariana. After drought periods, the two genes SbFT and SbSVP undergo dramatic transcriptional changes directly before flowering. The researchers can also confirm the flowering functions of these two genes using transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana plants.
The research was supported by the University Research Priority Programs in Global Changes and Biodiversity, in Systems Biology / Functional Genomics, and SystemsX.ch.Literature:
Nathalie Huber | Universität Zürich
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