Proteins from the FLOWERING LOCUS T-like subclade of the PEBP family act antagonistically to regulate floral initiation in tobacco.
True day-neutral (DN) plants flower regardless of day-length and yet they flower at characteristic stages. DN Nicotiana tabacum cv. Samsun, makes about forty nodes before flowering. The question still persists whether flowering starts because leaves become physiologically able to export sufficient floral stimulus or the shoot apical meristem (SAM) acquires developmental competence to interpret its arrival. This question was addressed using tobacco expressing the Schizosaccharomyces pombe cell cycle gene, Spcdc25, as a tool. Spcdc25 expression induces early flowering and we tested a hypothesis that this phenotype arises because of premature floral competence of the SAM. Scions of vegetative Spcdc25 plants were grafted onto stocks of vegetative WT together with converse grafts and flowering onset followed (as the time since sowing and number of leaves formed till flowering). Spcdc25 plants flowered significantly earlier with fewer leaves, and, unlike WT, also formed flowers from axillary buds. Scions from vegetative Spcdc25 plants also flowered precociously when grafted to vegetative WT stocks. However, in a WT scion to Spcdc25 stock, the plants flowered at the same time as WT. SAMs from young vegetative Spcdc25 plants were elongated (increase in SAM convexity determined by tracing a circumference of SAM sections) with a pronounced meristem surface cell layers compared with WT. Presumably, Spcdc25 SAMs were competent for flowering earlier than WT and responded to florigenic signal produced even in young vegetative WT plants. Precocious reproductive competence in Spcdc25 SAMs comprised a pronounced mantle, a trait of prefloral SAMs. Hence, we propose that true DN plants export florigenic signal since early developmental stages but the SAM has to acquire competence to respond to the floral stimulus.