Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 108(26) , 10756-61 (Jun 28 2011)
Annual plants grow vegetatively at early developmental stages and then transition to the reproductive stage, followed by senescence in the same year. In contrast, after successive years of vegetative growth at early ages, woody perennial shoot meristems begin repeated transitions between vegetative and reproductive growth at sexual maturity. However, it is unknown how these repeated transitions occur without a developmental conflict between vegetative and reproductive growth. We report that functionally diverged paralogs FLOWERING LOCUS T1 (FT1) and FLOWERING LOCUS T2 (FT2), products of whole-genome duplication and homologs of Arabidopsis thaliana gene FLOWERING LOCUS T (FT), coordinate the repeated cycles of vegetative and reproductive growth in woody perennial poplar (Populus spp.). Our manipulative physiological and genetic experiments coupled with field studies, expression profiling, and network analysis reveal that reproductive onset is determined by FT1 in response to winter temperatures, whereas vegetative growth and inhibition of bud set are promoted by FT2 in response to warm temperatures and long days in the growing season. The basis for functional differentiation between FT1 and FT2 appears to be expression pattern shifts, changes in proteins, and divergence in gene regulatory networks. Thus, temporal separation of reproductive onset and vegetative growth into different seasons via FT1 and FT2 provides seasonality and demonstrates the evolution of a complex perennial adaptive trait after genome duplication.