Special molecule helps plants 'remember' winter and bloom in spring

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Washington, Dec 8 (ANI): Scientists at the University of Texas, Austin has discovered the role of a key molecule that plays in a plant's ability to remember winter, and therefore bloom in the spring.

"Plants can't literally remember, of course, because they don't have brains," said Sibum Sung, assistant professor in the Section of Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology.

"But they do have a cellular memory of winter, and our research provides details on how this process works," Sung said.

The process is known as vernalization, whereby a plant becomes competent to flower after a period of cold.

Sung and postdoctoral fellow Jae Bok Heo have now discovered that a long, non-coding RNA molecule, named COLDAIR, is required for plants to set up a memory of winter.

This is how it works: In fall, a gene called FLC actively represses floral production. A random bloom in fall could be a waste of precious energy.

But after a plant has been exposed to 20 days of near-freezing temperatures, the scientists found that COLDAIR becomes active. It silences the FLC gene, a process that is completed after about 30 to 40 days of cold.

With the FLC silenced as temperatures warm in the spring, other genes are activated that initiate blooming.

COLDAIR helps create a cellular memory for a plant, letting it know it has been through 30 or more days of cold.

They published their work on the Arabidopsis plant in Science Express on Dec. 2. (ANI)

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