Vernalization is the acquisition or acceleration of the ability to flower by chilling treatment. After a prolonged cold treatment, like winter, vernalized plants have the competence to flower, and this competence is "remembered" during the development of the plant. The molecular basis of this cellular memory is the regulation of the floral repressor FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC) by the vernalization pathway. FLC mRNA levels decrease during the prolonged cold and this repression is maintained during subsequent development allowing the plant to respond to floral promotive signals.
The vernalization signal is mitotically stable, but at some point during gamete formation or seed development, FLC mRNA levels are reset to a high level to ensure the next generation also needs vernalization before flowering. The purpose of this work is to characterize at the molecular level the precise sequence of events mediating the epigenetic regulation of FLC. This includes a detailed study of the histone modifications (deacetylati ons, methylations, ubiquitinations and phosphorylations) that govern FLC expression; how these chromatin modifications are maintained; and how these epigenetic marks are reset during seed development.
Vernalization provides a rare example of a system where the temporal changes in gene expression are slow enough to be able to realistically describe the fully sequence of events. Personally speaking, this study should provide important information relevant to the study of epigenetic regulation in all life kingdoms and introduces me to a new research area that will provide me a wider perspective of my scientific career.
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