Plants grow in a wide range of habitats and despite their sessile lifestyle, they are big decision-makers. They constantly monitor the environmental conditions such as temperature, light and nutrient availability to modulate their growth and development. Among the important decisions a plant must make during its life time is when to make the transition from vegetative development to flowering and therefore start spending more energy on creating flowers rather than increasing their size. This decision is rarely reversible.
Therefore, timing and a favorable outcome are crucial to ensure the successful formation of seeds at the optimal time for the survival of the next generation, contributing to plant fitness and maximizing agricultural yield. As we do in every big decision in life, plants take it seriously. They have evolved a complex decision-making process regulated by environmental and developmental cues, including temperature, day length, age and carbohydrate availability.
Plants use sunlight and water to convert carbon dioxide into a range of sugars. Besides making our lives sweeter, and being the most important energy source in plants, sugars can also act as messengers in signal transduction. Work of many international groups has shown that the balance and the availability of these messengers are determinants of plant development. Notably, there is a tight link between sugars as messengers and the onset of flowering. Once the transition to flowering begins the morphological changes in the growing tip (Shoot apical meristem: SAM) increase the requirements for carbohydrates in these tissues to support the formation of flowers and to fill the seeds. However, the details of the processes by which sugar availability at the shoot apex is increased are poorly understood.
To understand the interface between carbon allocation and reproductive development, we aim to study in CEPLAS the molecular mechanisms and the regulatory dynamics that link these two processes in the model species Arabidopsis thaliana. We are particularly interested in understanding how sugar availability and carbon partitioning are related to the morphological changes that occur in the shoot apical meristem during the transition to flower production.
Under the heading Planter’s Punch we present each month one special aspect of the CEPLAS research programme. All contributions are prepared by our young researchers.
Yohanna Miotto is postdoctoral researcher in the group of George Coupland at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research. Her research focuses on the molecular mechanisms that control flowering transition in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Previous to joining CEPLAS she earned her PhD at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, where she studied root development in light response.