Maize adaptation across temperate climates was obtained via expression of two florigen genes

Sara Castelletti, Aude Coupel-Ledru, Italo Granato, Carine Palaffre, Llorenç Cabrera-Bosquet, Chiara Tonelli, Stéphane D. Nicolas, François Tardieu, Claude Welcker, Lucio Conti


Expansion of the maize growing area was central for food security in temperate regions. In addition to the suppression of the short-day requirement for floral induction, it required breeding for a large range of flowering time that compensates the effect of South-North gradients of temperatures. Here we show the role of a novel florigen gene, ZCN12, in the latter adaptation in cooperation with ZCN8. Strong eQTLs of ZCN8 and ZCN12, measured in 327 maize lines, accounted for most of the genetic variance of flowering time in platform and field experiments. ZCN12 had a strong effect on flowering time of transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana plants; a path analysis showed that it directly affected maize flowering time together with ZCN8. The allelic composition at ZCN QTLs showed clear signs of selection by breeders. This suggests that florigens played a central role in ensuring a large range of flowering time, necessary for adaptation to temperate areas.

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