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Remembering winter through vernalisation


Vernalisation is the programmed physiological process in which prolonged cold-exposure provides competency to flower in plants; widely found in winter and biennial species, such as Arabidopsis, fruit trees, vegetables and wheat. This phenomenon is regulated by diverse genetic networks, and memory of vernalisation in a life cycle mainly depends on epigenetic mechanisms. However, less is known about how to count winter-dosage for flowering in plants. Here, we compare the vernalisation genetic framework between the dicots Arabidopsis, temperate grasses, wheat, barley and Brachypodium. We discuss vernalisation mechanisms involving crosstalk between phosphorylation and O-GlcNAcylation modification of key proteins, and epigenetic modifications of the key gene VRN1 in wheat. We also highlight the potential evolutionary origins of vernalisation in various species. Current progress toward understanding the regulation of vernalisation requirements provides insight that will inform the design of molecular breeding strategies for winter crops.

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We gratefully acknowledge funding from NSFC for the basic science centre program (31788103) and the major state basic research program of China (973).

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S. X. wrote a draft of this article. K. C. designed the outline of the manuscript and polished the article.

Correspondence to Kang Chong.

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Fig. 1: Life-cycle transitions of winter wheat and rice in response to seasonal changes.
Fig. 2: Comparison of the vernalisation gene-regulatory networks of Arabidopsis and wheat.
Fig. 3: Epigenetic silencing of FLC to count the duration of vernalisation.
Fig. 4: The regulatory role of the O-GlcNAc signal in vernalisation.