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JST Press Release

April. 4, 2014
Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST)
5-3, Yonbancho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-8666
URL http://www.jst.go.jp/EN/index.html

Lipids bind to florigen and control flowering time

A research team led by Dr. Yuki Nakamura, an Assistant Research Fellow at the Institute of Plant and Microbial Biology, Academia Sinica, recently discovered that a flowering inducer florigen binds phospholipid and promote flowering in Arabidopsis.

A flowering-inducing hormone, or florigen, is a long-distance mobile protein produced in leaves that acts to initiate flowering. For its critical role, florigen was studied intensively worldwide, and revealed to be small mobile protein acting as a complex which was named the “florigen activation complex”. However, to date, what sort of molecules florigen interacts with to fulfill its role to initiate flowering is still poorly understood.

Dr. Nakamura's team hypothesized, based on the 3D structure of florigen, that phospholipids might represent novel binding partners of florigen to modulate its function. Here, they found that phosphatidylcholine (PC) bound specifically to florigen. To investigate the role of PC in flowering, they developed a new technology to engineer PC levels at the shoot apex. They found that increases in PC where florigen acts, promote flowering, whereas decreases in PC delay flowering time. This effect was attenuated if florigen was genetically knocked out. They further discovered that PC molecular species oscillated diurnally, and night-dominant species were not the preferred ligands for florigen. Metabolic engineering to increase night species during the day time delayed the flowering time in the presence of florigen. Thus, Nakamura's team concluded that florigen binds to diurnally oscillating phospholipids and accelerate flowering.

The study proposed a novel model of flowering time control by lipids, which provides a new direction for agricultural innovation such as improved crop yields or efficient bioenergy creation. The research was funded by Academia Sinica and Japan Science and Technology Agency, and was conducted in collaboration with Honor. Prof. Dr. George Coupland (Max-Planck-Institute for Plant Molecular Breeding, Germany) and Prof. Dr. Peter Dörmann (Univ. Bonn, Germany).

Researcher Information

Research Area: “Creation of Basic Technology for Improved Bioenergy Production through Functional Analysis and Regulation of Algae and Other Aquatic Microorganisms”
Research Theme: “Establishment of novel technical platforms on the triglyceride metabolic engineering in eukaryotic algae”

Journal Information

Yuki Nakamura, Fernando Andrés, Kazue Kanehara, Yu-chi Liu, Peter Dörmann and George Coupland.
“Arabidopsis florigen FT binds to diurnally oscillating phospholipids that accelerate flowering” Nature Communications, Published online 4 April 2014
doi: 10.1038/ncomms4553


[About Research]
Yuki Nakamura, Ph.D.
Assistant Research Fellow, Institute of Plant and Microbial Biology, Academia Sinica

[About Program]
Koji Matsuo and Masashi Furukawa
Green Innovation Group, Department of Innovation Research, JST


JST, an integrated organization of science and technology in Japan, establishes an infrastructure for the entire process from the creation of knowledge to the return to the society. For more information, visit http://www.jst.go.jp/EN/