The ELF4 gene controls circadian rhythms and flowering time in Arabidopsis thaliana

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Many plants use day length as an environmental cue to ensure proper timing of the switch from vegetative to reproductive growth. Day-length sensing involves an interaction between the relative length of day and night, and endogenous rhythms that are controlled by the plant circadian clock1. Thus, plants with defects in circadian regulation cannot properly regulate the timing of the floral transition2. Here we describe the gene EARLY FLOWERING 4 (ELF4), which is involved in photoperiod perception and circadian regulation. ELF4 promotes clock accuracy and is required for sustained rhythms in the absence of daily light/dark cycles. elf4 mutants show attenuated expression of CIRCADIAN CLOCK ASSOCIATED 1 (CCA1), a gene that is thought to function as a central oscillator component3,4. In addition, elf4 plants transiently show output rhythms with highly variable period lengths before becoming arrhythmic. Mutations in elf4 result in early flowering in non-inductive photoperiods, which is probably caused by elevated amounts of CONSTANS (CO), a gene that promotes floral induction5.

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Figure 1: Circadian rhythms of elf4 in LL or DD.
Figure 2: Regulation of CCA1 expression by ELF4.
Figure 3: Expression of ELF4 and CONSTANS.


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This work was supported by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences of the University of Wisconsin and by a grant to R.A. from the National Science Foundation. M.R.D. was supported by a Molecular Biosciences Training Grant (NIH); R.M.B. was supported by a Gatsby graduate studentship; S.J.D. is a Department of Energy Bioscience fellow of the Life Sciences Research Foundation. Work in Warwick was supported by grants from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) to A.J.M. The work in Hungary was supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

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Correspondence to Andrew J. Millar or Richard M. Amasino.

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Doyle, M., Davis, S., Bastow, R. et al. The ELF4 gene controls circadian rhythms and flowering time in Arabidopsis thaliana. Nature 419, 74–77 (2002) doi:10.1038/nature00954

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