Post-transcriptional Regulation of FLOWERING LOCUS T Modulates Heat-Dependent Source-Sink Development in Potato

Günter G. Lehretz, Sophia Sonnewald, Csaba Hornyik, José M. Corral, Uwe Sonnewald (Lead / Corresponding author)

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57 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding tuberization in the major crop plant potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) is of importance to secure yield even under changing environmental conditions. Tuber formation is controlled by a homolog of the floral inductor FLOWERING LOCUS T, referred to as SP6A. To gain deeper insights into its function, we created transgenic potato plants overexpressing a codon-optimized version of SP6A, SP6Acop, to avoid silencing effects. These plants exhibited extremely early tuberization at the juvenile stage, hindering green biomass development and indicating a tremendous shift in the source sink balance. The meristem identity was altered in dormant buds of transgenic tubers. This strong phenotype, not being reported so far for plants overexpressing an unmodified SP6A, could be due to post-transcriptional regulation. In fact, a putative SP6A-specific small regulatory RNA was identified in potato. It was effectively repressing SP6A mRNA accumulation in transient assays as well as in leaves of young potato plants prior to tuber formation. SP6A expression is downregulated under heat, preventing tuberization. The molecular mechanism has not been elucidated yet. We showed that this small RNA is strongly upregulated under heat. The importance of the small RNA was demonstrated by overexpression of a target mimicry construct, which led to an increased SP6A expression, enabling tuberization even under continuous heat conditions, which abolished tuber formation in the wild-type. Thus, our study describes an additional regulatory mechanism for SP6A besides the well-known pathway that integrates both developmental and environmental signals to control tuberization and is therefore a promising target for breeding of heat-tolerant potato.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1614-1624.e3
Number of pages15
JournalCurrent biology : CB
Issue number10
Early online date2 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2019


  • Base Sequence
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Hot Temperature
  • Plant Proteins/genetics
  • Plant Tubers/genetics
  • Plants, Genetically Modified/genetics
  • RNA, Plant/genetics
  • Solanum tuberosum/genetics


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