Naturally occurring allele diversity allows potato cultivation in northern latitudes

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Potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) originates from the Andes and evolved short-day-dependent tuber formation as a vegetative propagation strategy. Here we describe the identification of a central regulator underlying a major-effect quantitative trait locus for plant maturity and initiation of tuber development. We show that this gene belongs to the family of DOF (DNA-binding with one finger) transcription factors1 and regulates tuberization and plant life cycle length, by acting as a mediator between the circadian clock and the StSP6A mobile tuberization signal2. We also show that natural allelic variants evade post-translational light regulation, allowing cultivation outside the geographical centre of origin of potato. Potato is a member of the Solanaceae family and is one of the world’s most important food crops. This annual plant originates from the Andean regions of South America3. Potato develops tubers from underground stems called stolons. Its equatorial origin makes potato essentially short-day dependent for tuberization and potato will not make tubers in the long-day conditions of spring and summer in the northern latitudes. When introduced in temperate zones, wild material will form tubers in the course of the autumnal shortening of day-length. Thus, one of the first selected traits in potato leading to a European potato type4 is likely to have been long-day acclimation for tuberization. Potato breeders can exploit the naturally occurring variation in tuberization onset and life cycle length, allowing varietal breeding for different latitudes, harvest times and markets.

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Figure 1: Overexpression of StCDF1.2, localized on chromosome 5, results in earlier potato tuber formation, and delays flowering in Arabidopsis.
Figure 2: Alleles of StCDF1 exhibit different post-translational regulation throughout the day.
Figure 3: Expression analysis of genes regulating tuber formation in S. andigenum , late and early C × E descendants, and transient co-expression analysis in N. benthamiana leaves.

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The sequence of the StCDF1.2 gene variant is available in GenBank (accession number KC284850). All other sequences from potato are available at GenBank or the Potato Genome Sequencing Consortium website (


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We would like to thank K. Kaufman, G. Angenent, N. Mansoori Zangir, J. Uitdewilligen and R. Hutten for help and advice in the planning and execution of the project. Thanks also go to V. Ghasemi Omran and I. Pereira-Bertram for their expert technical assistance and to T. Bisseling for critical reading of the manuscript. We gratefully acknowledge the Dutch potato breeding companies, Argrico Research B.V., HZPC Holland B.V. and Meijer B.V. for the execution of the field trials. The project was supported by the Technology Foundation STW (grant no. WGC.7795 and WPB.5283) and FP6 integrated Project EU-Sol PL016214. M.d.M.C.G. received additional support from Almeria University Fund.

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B.K., J.A.A., M.d.M.C.G., M.O., J.M.d.B., K.K., B.M.H., C.S. and C.W.B.B. performed the experiments and analysed the results. B.K., S.P., H.J.v.E., J.M.d.B., R.G.F.V. and C.W.B.B. designed the experiments, C.W.B.B. wrote the manuscript and J.A.A., S.P., B.M.H., B.K., M.d.M.C.G., H.J.v.E., J.M.d.B., K.K. and R.G.F.V. gave critical feedback on the manuscript.

Correspondence to Christian W. B. Bachem.

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Kloosterman, B., Abelenda, J., Gomez, M. et al. Naturally occurring allele diversity allows potato cultivation in northern latitudes. Nature 495, 246–250 (2013) doi:10.1038/nature11912

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