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Transcription factor PIF4 controls the thermosensory activation of flowering


Plant growth and development are strongly affected by small differences in temperature1. Current climate change has already altered global plant phenology and distribution2,3, and projected increases in temperature pose a significant challenge to agriculture4. Despite the important role of temperature on plant development, the underlying pathways are unknown. It has previously been shown that thermal acceleration of flowering is dependent on the florigen, FLOWERING LOCUS T (FT)5,6. How this occurs is, however, not understood, because the major pathway known to upregulate FT, the photoperiod pathway, is not required for thermal acceleration of flowering6. Here we demonstrate a direct mechanism by which increasing temperature causes the bHLH transcription factor PHYTOCHROME INTERACTING FACTOR4 (PIF4) to activate FT. Our findings provide a new understanding of how plants control their timing of reproduction in response to temperature. Flowering time is an important trait in crops as well as affecting the life cycles of pollinator species. A molecular understanding of how temperature affects flowering will be important for mitigating the effects of climate change.

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Figure 1: PIF4 is necessary for the thermal induction of flowering in short photoperiods.
Figure 2: Regulation of PIF4 by temperature.
Figure 3: PIF4 directly binds the FT promoter in a temperature-dependent manner.
Figure 4: PIF4 integrates environmental signals.


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We thank S. Prat, C. Fankhauser, K. Franklin, K. Goto, G. Coupland and D. Weigel for seeds. We are grateful to members of the Wigge laboratory for discussions. This work was supported in part by award No. KUK-I1-002-03 (to N.P.H.) made by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology and a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) grant BB/I019022/1 (to S.V.K.). D.L. was supported by an Erwin Schroedinger Fellowship from the Austrian Science Fund FWF. P.A.W. was supported by start-up funds from the John Innes Centre and BBSRC, a BBSRC grant (BB/D0100470/1) and a European Research Council Starting Grant (ERC 243140).

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S.V.K., D.L., K.E.J. and E.A. performed the experiments. N.P.H. and P.A.W. designed the study and supervised the work. All authors discussed the results and made substantial contributions to the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Philip A. Wigge.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Kumar, S., Lucyshyn, D., Jaeger, K. et al. Transcription factor PIF4 controls the thermosensory activation of flowering. Nature 484, 242–245 (2012).

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