In previous research Lippman and others reasoned that the timing of flowering would be important in determining whether an inflorescence was highly branched or not. By characterizing the activity of thousands of genes involved in the flowering process of tomato, Lippman and members of his laboratory revealed a "molecular clock" coordinating whether meristems give rise to branched or unbranched inflorescences.
In their newly published research, they reveal that one of those genes plays a critical role in keeping the clock from ticking too fast.
TMF controls synchronization of the flowering transition
"In order for a plant to determine when and where to switch from making leaves to making flowers everything has to be timed perfectly," says Lippman. "We know that the flowering process is regulated by temperature and day length; these control one aspect of the timing. But now we've found a new timing mechanism."
The moment of insight for Lippman and his team, including colleagues at the Unit de Recherche en Gnomique Vgtale in Evry, France and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, came when studying mutant tomato plants. "We found a gene that when mutated converts the typical tomato multi-flowered inflorescence into one with a single flower," Lippman says. Interestingly, this caused the tomato plant to mimic other single-flowered plants of the same family, called Solanaceae, which includes the eggplant, tobacco, petunia, and pepper plants.
The gene Lippman's team found, cal
|Contact: Edward Brydon Ph.D.|
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory