Day length is a key indicator of seasonal information that determines major patterns of behavior in plants and animals. Photoperiodism has been described in plants for about 100 years, but the underlying molecular mechanisms of day length perception and signal transduction in many systems are not well understood. In trees, photoperiod perception plays a major role in growth cessation during the autumn as well as activating the resumption of shoot growth in the spring, both processes controlled by FLOWERING LOCUS T2 (FT2) expression levels and critical for the survival of perennial plants over winter [1–4]. It has been shown that the conserved role of poplar orthologs to Arabidopsis CONSTANS (CO) directly activates FT2 expression [1, 5]. Overexpression of poplar CO is, however, not sufficient to sustain FT2 expression under short days , pointing to the presence of an additional short-day-dependent FT2 repression pathway in poplar. We find that night length information is transmitted via the expression level of a poplar clock gene, LATE ELONGATED HYPOCOTYL 2 (LHY2), which controls FT2 expression. Repression of FT2 is a function of the night extension and LHY2 expression level. We show that LHY2 is necessary and sufficient to activate night length repressive signaling. We propose that the photoperiodic control of shoot growth in poplar involves a balance between FT2 activating and repressing pathways. Our results show that poplar relies on night length measurement to determine photoperiodism through interaction between light signaling pathways and the circadian clock. Ramos-Sánchez et al. show that poplar tree measures night length to determine the seasonal timing of shoot apical growth. This work demonstrates that night length information is transmitted as a repressive signal to the photoperiodic integrator gene FLOWERING LOCUS T 2 (FT2) via activation of clock gene LATE ELONGATED HYPOCOTYL 2 (LHY2).
Ramos-Sánchez, J. M., Triozzi, P. M., Alique, D., Geng, F., Gao, M., Jaeger, K. E., … Perales, M. (2019). LHY2 Integrates Night-Length Information to Determine Timing of Poplar Photoperiodic Growth. Current Biology, 29(14), 2402-2406.e4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2019.06.003