versão impressa ISSN 1677-0420
Braz. J. Plant Physiol. v.16 n.2 Londrina maio/ago. 2004
EgLFY: o homólogo em Eucalyptus grandis do gene LEAFY de Arabidopsis é expresso em tecidos vegetativos e reprodutivos
Marcelo Carnier DornelasI, *; Weber A. Neves do AmaralII; Adriana Pinheiro Martinelli RodriguezI
IUniversidade de São Paulo, Centro de Energia Nuclear na Agricultura. Lab. Biotecnologia Vegetal, Av. Centenário 303, CEP 13400-970, Piracicaba, SP, Brasil
IIUniversidade de São Paulo, Depto. De Ciências Florestais, Av. Pádua Dias 11, CEP 13418-970, Piracicaba, SP, Brasil
The EgLFY gene cloned from Eucalyptus grandis has sequence homology to the floral meristem identity gene LEAFY (LFY) from Arabidopsis and FLORICAULA (FLO) from Antirrhinum. EgLFY is preferentially expressed in the developing eucalypt floral organs in a pattern similar to that described previously for the Arabidopsis LFY. In situ hybridization experiments have shown that EgLFY is strongly expressed in the early floral meristem and then successively in the primordia of sepals, petals, stamens and carpels. It is also expressed in the leaf primordia of adult trees. The expression of the EgLFY coding region under control of the Arabidopsis LFY promoter could complement strong lfy mutations in transgenic Arabidopsis plants. These data suggest that EgLFY plays a similar role to LFY in flower development and that the basic mechanisms involved in flower initiation and development in Eucalyptus may be similar to those occurring in Arabidopsis.
Key words: Eucalyptus, flowering, LEAFY, reproductive development.
O gene EgLFY, clonado de Eucalyptus grandis, possui homologia de seqüência com o gene de identidade meristemática LEAFY (LFY) de Arabidopsis e FLORICAULA (FLO) de Antirrhinum. EgLFY é, preferencialmente, expresso nos órgãos florais em desenvolvimento de eucalipto, obedecendo a um padrão similar ao descrito para o gene LFY de Arabidopsis. Experimentos de hibridização in situ mostraram que o gene EgLFY é fortemente expresso em meristemas florais no início de seu desenvolvimento e, então, sucessivamente, durante a formação dos primórdios de sépalas, pétalas, estames e carpelos. Há expressão também nos primórdios foliares de árvores adultas. A expressão da região codificadora de EgLFY sob o controle do promotor do LFY de Arabidopsis pôde complementar mutantes lfy nulos em plantas de Arabidopsis transgênicas. Essas observações sugerem que o gene EgLFY possui um papel similar ao de LFY no desenvolvimento floral e que os mecanismos básicos envolvidos na iniciação e no desenvolvimento floral em Eucalyptus podem ser semelhantes aos de Arabidopsis.
Palavras-chave: eucalipto, desenvolvimento reprodutivo, LEAFY, florescimento.
In the model species Antirrhinum and Arabidopsis, the apical meristem switches from vegetative to floral development as plants enter the reproductive phase (Coen and Meyerowitz, 1991; Hempel et al., 1994).
In Antirrhinum and Arabidopsis, the shoot apical meristem (SAM) initiates lateral primordia that develop into either shoots or flowers. The development of flowers instead of shoots is mediated by the action of floral meristem identity genes which include LEAFY (LFY) in Arabidopsis (Weigel et al., 1992) and its homologue FLORICAULA (FLO) in Antirrhinum (Coen et al., 1990). Inactivation of the FLO gene in Antirrhinum causes formation of indeterminate shoots in place of flowers and in Arabidopsis lfy mutants the structures that would normally develop into flowers develop into structures intermediate between shoots and flowers. FLO and LFY share 70% amino acid identity and each has a proline rich region and an acidic domain, which indicates their possible role as transcriptional activators (Coen et al., 1990). In Arabidopsis, LFY has been found to activate homeotic genes, which regulate floral organogenesis (Weigel and Meyerowitz, 1993). Both LFY and FLO are expressed in the floral meristem prior to initiation of floral organ primordia while expression at later stages of floral development in both species is less conserved (Coen et al., 1990; Weigel et al., 1992). In Antirrhinum, FLO expression is also observed in the leaf-like bracts which subtend the flower (Coen et al., 1990). LFY might act in suppressing bract formation in wild-type Arabidopsis since in lfy mutants lack of functional LFY RNA leads to ectopic bract formation (Weigel et al., 1992).
In contrast to what is observed for Arabidopsis, the apical meristem in eucalypts (Eucalyptus spp, Myrtaceae) generally remains vegetative. Lateral meristems, formed in the axils of the leaves, may give rise to a leafy shoot or to an inflorescence in response to inductive environmental conditions, such as day-length and temperature, if the tree is sufficiently mature (Drinnan and Ladiges, 1991). The E. grandis inflorescence is determinate and converts directly to a floral meristem(s). Both the inflorescence and flower meristems are completely enveloped by a pair of bracts which protect the primordia. While eucalypt flower buds and flowers are obviously structurally different from those of Arabidopsis and Antirrhinum, the pattern and timing of organ development is similar in the three species (see figure 1). Within the bracts enclosing the eucalypt inflorescence (figure 1C), the flower is initiated on the sides of the floral meristem as four protusions, corresponding to sepals, which enlarge, elongate and rapidly fuse, forming the outer layer of the protective structure known as the calicine operculum (Pryor and Knox, 1971; Drinnan & Ladiges, 1991; Steane et al., 1999). The four primordia from the second whorl, which normally give rise to petals in Arabidopsis, arise similarly in Eucalyptus, forming the inner (coroline) operculum (figure 1D). Stamen primordia, often in the number of several hundreds, arise in tightly packed whorls surrounding the central gynoecium and correspond to the third whorl of Arabidopsis and other plants. The gynoecium generally consists of four to five carpels in the innermost whorl (figure 1D). Early during reproductive development the bracts covering the flowers are shed. Depending on the Eucalyptus species, the calicine operculum also dehisce during early floral development (Steane et al., 1999; Drinnan & Ladiges, 1991). At anthesis, the coroline operculum is shed and the prominent stamens surrounding the single style are clearly visible (figure 1E).
As some common developmental features exist between the flower ontogenesis in eucalypts and model species such as Arabidopsis and Antirrhinum, it may be suggested that the key floral regulatory genes, described for these model species, would be conserved in eucalypts (Southerton et al., 1998a,b). Nevertheless, it is expected that these genes would display some altered patterns of expression consistent with the unique structural features of the eucalypt flower.
Orthologs of FLO/LFY have been cloned and characterized in several woody perennial species such as Monterey pine (Pinus radiata; Mellerowicz et al., 1998; Mouradov et al., 1998), Populus trichocarpa (Rottmann et al., 2000) kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa; Walton et al., 2001) and grape vine (Vitis vinifera; Carmona et al., 2002). Additionally, Southerton et al. (1998) described the cloning of a LFY homolog from Eucalyptus globulus and suggested that the biological function of LFY may be conserved in woody species. However, its specific role in the characteristic features of tree reproductive development has not yet been elucidated. Furthermore, partial or total FLO/LFY-like sequences have been reported from other basal angiosperms and gymnosperms (Frohlich and Meyerowitz, 1997; Frohlich and Parker, 2000), although in these cases functional information is not available.
We are currently studying genes involved in the early stages of floral development in woody tropical angiosperm trees. In this paper we describe the cloning of the Eucalyptus grandis LFY/FLO putative homolog (named EgLFY). We also describe and analyze its expression pattern during eucalypt reproductive and vegetative development. The EgLFY gene appears to be the functional homolog of LFY as deduced from data on its expression patterns during eucalypt reproductive development and from complementation experiments with Arabidopsis lfy mutants.
MATERIAL AND METHODS
Plant Material: Samples of vegetative and reproductive tissues of Eucalyptus grandis (var. Coffes Harbour) were collected in the fields of the Escola Superior de Agricultura Luiz de Queiroz, at the University of São Paulo (Piracicaba, SP, Brazil). Young expanding leaves were also used for isolation of genomic DNA. RNA-blot and in situ hybridization and SEM analyses were performed on plant tissues collected and fixed in different developmental stages during two growing seasons.
Cloning of EgLFY: Genomic DNA for PCR amplification, Southern analysis and construction of genomic libraries was isolated by the tradit ional CTAB-based method (Sambrook et al., 1989). Total RNA samples for cDNA library construction and Northern Blot were isolated from eucalypt leaves, vegetative apices and from a mix of inflorescences at different developmental stages using the Rneasy plant minikit (QIAGEN) following the supplier's instructions.
The genomic clones of EgLFY were isolated by screening 165,000 plaques from an E. grandis genomic library (22 x 10-6 pfu) constructed with partially Sau3A-digested genomic DNA, using the Packagene Lambda Packing Systems (Promega). For this screening, we have used a biotin-labeled probe (North2South chemiluminescent system, Pierce) using the entire Arabidopsis LFY cDNA from plasmid pDW124 (Weigel et al., 1992) as a template. Two adjacent BamHI fragments (E28B with 2Kbp and E6B with 6Kbp) spanning the entire genomic EgLFY sequence were subcloned into pBluescriptKS (Clontech). Subclones were prepared by nested deletions (Zhu and Clark, 1995) and sequenced on an ABI Prism 377 (Perkin-Elmer/Applied Biosystems) automated sequencer using the DYEnamic ET terminator Cycle Sequencing Kit (Amersham/Pharmacia Biotec, USA) coupled with M13 reverse and forward primers following the manufacturer instructions.
A cDNA library was constructed using total RNA from a mix of E. grandis inflorescences at different developmental stages. The poly-A fraction of RNA was isolated and the first strand of cDNA was synthesized using the SuperScript cloning system (Life Technologies). The cDNA library screening was performed using a PCR-based strategy (Sussman et al., 2000) and the LFY-specific degenerated primers L1: 5'-CGGAYATIAAYAARCCIAARATGMGICAYTA-3' and L4: 5'-CGGATCCGTGICKIARIYKIGTIG-GIACRTA-3' (Frohlich and Meyerowitz, 1997). The insert size of the positive clones was determined by PCR using the M13 forward and reverse primers and the three longest clones were sequenced on both strands. The sequences of both genomic and cDNA versions of the EgLFY gene were deposited at GenBank databases with the accession numbers AY640313 and AY640314, respectively.
Southern and Northern Hybridization: Southern blotting was performed as described in Sambrook et al. (1989) using genomic DNA digested with XhoI and PstI and blotted on Hybond-N Plus membrane (Amersham). Northern experiments were performed using ten micrograms of total RNA extracted from leaves, vegetative apices and from a mix of inflorescences at different developmental stages, separated in a denaturing agarose gel (Sambrook et al., 1989) and hybridized to an EgLFY probe.
The EgLFY probe used in both Southern and Northern experiments was a 235bp PCR product obtained from the 3' transcribed region of the gene, using primers E13:5'-TGGCGGAGCTTGGTGGGGACA-3' and E25:5'- CTTCCTCCTCCAAGTCCAATC-3', and an'EgLFY cDNA as a template. PCR reactions were performed in a final volume of 25 ÏL with an initial 3 min denaturation at 96ºC, followed by 40 cycles of 96ºC for 40 sec; 45ºC for 30 sec and 72ºC for 2 min. The PCR product was purified using the Concert Kit (Gibco-Life Sciences). The probe was labeled with fluorescein using the DCP-Star GeneImage System (Pharmacia-Amersham). Hybridization conditions, washing stringencies and detection were those suggested by the kit manufacturer. As a control for gel loading in Northern experiments, the stripped membrane was re-hybridized with a heterologous probe for a constitutively expressed gene, under low stringency, using a cDNA for an Arabidopsis ubiquitin (Gen Bank accession AB5432) as a template.
In situ hybridization:Digoxigenin labeling of RNA probes, tissue preparation and hybridization conditions were performed as described before (Dornelas et al., 1999, 2000). The template for the EgLFY digoxigenin-labeled riboprobes was the 1,400bp fragment, containing the complete coding region, cloned in pGEM-T easy vector. The hybridized sections were viewed immediately and photographed under a Zeiss Axiovert 35 microscope.
Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and light microscopy: The collected plant material was immediately fixed in 4% paraformaldehyde under vacuum for 24 h and dehydrated with absolute ethanol, where they were stored at 4ºC until needed. For light microscopy the dehydrated samples were embedded in Historesin (Leica, hydroxyetilmethacrilate). The resin polymerization was carried out at room temperature for 48 h. After polymerization, serial sections of 5-8 µm were obtained and stained with 0.05% toluidine blue (Dornelas et al., 1992). The histological sections were observed and photographed under a Zeiss Axiovert 35 microscope.
Alternatively, the plant material was initially dissected in absolute ethanol under an Olympus dissecting microscope. The resultant material was dried under CO2 in a Balzer's critical point drier and further dissected, when necessary. The samples were mounted in metallic stubs with carbon conductive adhesive tape, coated with colloidal gold and observed at 10-20kV using a ZEISS DSM 940 A or a LEO 435 VP scanning electron microscope, at the University of Sao Paulo (ESALQ-NAP/MEPA).
Sequence comparisons: The trimmed partial EgLFY genomic and cDNA sequences obtained were aligned using Clustal W (Thompson et al., 1994), before being checked for similarity with sequences already deposited in public databases using BLASTX (Altshul et al., 1997). Nucleotide and protein sequences of different LFY homologs were retrieved from GenBank (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi) and aligned with Clustal W (Thompson et al., 1994). Distance matrixes were obtained from the alignments and comparative trees were built using TreeView (Page, 2000).
Complementation of the Arabidopsis lfy-26 mutant: The XbaI-SmaI EgLFY fragment, carrying the coding region of EgLFY, with its endogenous start and stop codons, was obtained from plasmid pEGLFY and blunt-ended using DNA polymerase I (Klenow fragment). An intermediate pDW132E vector was prepared by cloning the polished fragment described above into the SmaI site of pDW132, containing the Arabidopsis LFY promoter (Weigel et al., 1992). The correct orientation of the cloning process was checked by endonuclease digestion. The PstI-SpeI fragment from the resultant pDW132E (LFY::EgLFY) vector was blunt-ended with Klenow and cloned into the plant transformation vector pSKI015 (a gift from D. Weigel, Salk Insitute, LA Jolla CA, USA), which contains the BAR gene, allowing selection with the herbicide Basta (Sylvet), constituting the pSKI015E vector. Arabidopsis plants (Columbia ecotype) transgenic for pSKI015E T-DNA were obtained by using Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated in planta transformation, as described by Bechtold et al. (1998). Putatively transformed seeds were selected upon germination on sand wetted with a Basta (Sylvet) solution at 500 mL.ml-1. Homozygous (Basta-resistant) lines were obtained by selfing the primary transformants. The segregation ratio of resistant:sensitive was used to estimate the number of transgene insertions. T2 lines, homozygous for the LFY::EgLFY T-DNA locus, were identified by sowing 200-300 T2 seeds, derived from different T1 plants under selective conditions. Transgenic and non-transgenic plants were grown in growth chambers at 23ºC under illumination with fluorescent lights: long day (LD) conditions (16 h of light / 8 h of dark) or short day (SD) conditions (8 h of light / 16 h of dark). Finally, LFY::EgLFY transformants in the Columbia ecotype were crossed to the strong lfy-26 mutant allele in the Landsberg erecta background (wild-type and mutant Arabidopsis seeds were obtained from the ABRC seed stock at the Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA). To genotype F2 plants at the LFY locus, CAPS (Cleared Amplified Polymorphic Sequences; Konieczny and Ausubel, 1993) markers that distinguished between Columbia and Landsberg were used (URL:http://www.salk.edu/LABS/pbio-w/caps.html). Transgenic and non-transgenic Arabidopsis flowers and inflorescences at different developmental stages were photographed under a stereomicroscope or analyzed by SEM.
The EgLFY gene is an expressed Eucalyptus grandis homolog of LFY: The EgLFY gene contains two introns (figure 2) and encodes a putative protein with high sequence similarity to FLO/LFY-like proteins (figure 3). The deduced protein sequence of EgLFY is 95.2% identical to the previously published ELF1 gene, the LFY homolog in E. globulus (Southerton et al., 1998b). The EgLFY gene encodes a putative protein of 359 amino acids, which is 67% identical to Arabidopsis LFY and 71% identical to the FLO protein (figure 3). These three protein sequences are most similar in their C-terminal regions. Beyond Arg-177, EgLFY is 80% identical to LFY and 84% identical to FLO. In this region, a stretch of 30 amino acids is identical in all three proteins, and a total of 156 amino acids in which virtually all changes are conservative replacements. N-terminal of Arg-177, the EgLFY protein is 55% identical to LFY and 58% identical to FLO. The EgLFY protein sequence contains a highly acidic region between glutamates 163 and 174, a short leucine zipper of leucines 45, 52 and 59, and a basic region between Arg-145 and His-153, all features observed in similar positions in the LFY and FLO sequences. EgLFY differs from LFY and FLO in that it lacks the proline rich region at its N-terminus and contains a serine and alanine rich region between Ser-335 and Ala-349.
The number of loci that hybridize with an EgLFY probe was investigated by Southern hybridization. This experiment was performed due to the report by Southerton et al. (1998) that E. globulus has a second LFY-like homolog that appears to be a pseudogene. Figure 4A shows a Southern blot of XhoI- and PstI-digested genomic E. grandis DNA, probed with the EgLFY probe. Two hybridizing bands were detected at low-medium stringencies (washes in 2xSSC at 40ºC). Nevertheless, these additional bands could not be detected in Southern blot experiments when higher stringencies were used (0,1xSSC at 65ºC; data not shown). Thus, the presence of a second LFY-like gene in the E. globulus genome can not be ruled out. The Northern blot experiments (figure 4B) were always performed at high stringency and the cross-detection of transcripts of LFY-like loci other than EgLFY was unlikely. The Northern blot results (figure 4B) indicate that the expression of EgLFY is restricted to adult plants and that EgLFY is preferentially expressed in reproductive tissues.
EgLFY is expressed in the tip of leaf primordia of adult trees and during floral organ development: The expression pattern of EgLFY in vegetative and reproductive tissues was determined more precisely by in situ hybridization of longitudinal sections of vegetative and reproductive meristems of E. grandis (figure 5). No hybridization signal was detected in the shoot apical meristems of juvenile (6 months-old) plants (figure 5A), agreeing with the Northern blot results. In both apical and lateral vegetative meristems of adult (6 years-old) plants, the EgLFY transcripts were detected at the tip of the leaf primordia. No signal was detected in the shoot apical meristem itself (figures 5B and 5C). During reproductive development EgLFY expression was detected only in young floral buds, similar to the expression of the FLO and LFY genes in Antirrhinum and Arabidopsis, respectively. Eucalypt tissues tended to stain light brown during fixation, noticeably in oil glands and epidermal cells. However, the characteristic purple color generated from alkaline phosphatase substrates observed during the detection of the digoxigenin-labelled antisense probes was easily distinguished from the non-specific staining. No labeling other than background was observed in serial sections probed with sense probes (figure 5G). The patterns of EgLFY expression in the floral buds of E. grandis, were similar to those described for ELF1 expression in E. globulus and E. macandra (Southerton et al., 1998b) and a selection of the patterns observed at different floral stages are shown in figure 5. In developing flowers of E. grandis EgLFY was first detected uniformly in early floral meristems, before the onset of the floral organ primordia, (figure 5D). Later, the EgLFY hybridization signal was preferentially detected in areas corresponding to the developing floral primordia (figures 5E, 5H and 5I). Expression was briefly observed in sepal primordia and then in petal primordia (figures 5E and 5F). EgLFY expression declined in the sepals as they enlarged and fused, and was then observed in the petal primordia. As the petal primordia enlarged, expression became restricted to the center of the floral meristem, where the carpels form, and in the stamen primordia (figures 5H and 5I). Afterwards, expression declined in the petals and no hybridization signal was detected anymore in the operculum tissues. Expression was maintained during stamen development and in the region of the developing gynoecium, particularly in the developing ovules (data not shown). EgLFY expression was not detected in fully developed floral buds, but these tissues were extremely difficult to section and contained high levels of phenolic compounds and oils that interfered with proper in situ hybridization.
The EgLFY coding region can complement transgenic Arabidopsis lfy mutants: When the EgLFY coding region was fused downstream to the Arabidopsis LFY promoter and introduced into the strong-phenotype lfy-26 Arabidopsis mutant, complete restoration of the wild type development was observed (figure 6). The early arising (basal) flowers in the Arabidopsis lfy-26 mutants were replaced by bracts adjacent to secondary inflorescence shoots, whereas later arising flowers were replaced by small bracts, in whose axils abnormal flowers developed (figures 6B and 6C; Weigel et al., 1992). These abnormal flowers contained sepals and carpels but no petals or stamens, these later being usually homeotically substituted by more sepals and carpels, respectively (figures 6C and 6D; Weigel et al., 1992). In contrast, wild-type flowers typically contain four sepals, four petals, six stamens, and two carpels. The lfy-26 floral phenotype was largely complemented by the LFY::EgLFY transgene. The main shoot of these plants developed flowers in both basal and apical positions, and most of these contained all four floral organ types (figures 6E and 6F).
We have isolated an expressed eucalypt LFY homolog named EgLFY. The EgLFY gene contains two introns that occur in identical positions to those found in all the described LFY/FLO homologs clones to date (Frohlich and Parker, 2000) and its sequence and expression patterns are very similar to those described for most dicot LFY/FLO homologs in the literature. Expression of EgLFY driven by the Arabidopsis LFY promoter is able to restore the wild type phenotype of transgenic Arabidopsis lfy-26 mutants. These close structural and functional similarities strongly suggest that EgLFY is the functional eucalypt homologue of LFY/FLO. LFY/FLO homologues similar to EgLFY have also been isolated from other plants (Frolich and Parker, 2000). Weigel and Nilsson (1998) have reported that transgenic hybrid aspen (Populus tremula x P. tremuloides) constitutively expressing the Arabidopsis LFY cDNA flowers precociously and shows similar phenotypes to Arabidopsis transformed with the same construct. Similarly, Peña et al. (2001) also reported the early flowering of citrus plants overexpressing a LFY homolog. These data add further weight to the hypothesis that floral regulatory mechanisms, and hence regulatory genes, are conserved among the angiosperms. The putative protein encoded by EgLFY shares a number of sequence motifs with other characterized LFY/FLO proteins (Frolich and Parker, 2000). The acidic domain is not conserved with respect to sequence and occurs in a region of relatively poor sequence conservation among the LFY homologs. The putative EgLFY protein, as well as its E. globulus homolog (Southerton et al., 1998) is shorter at the N-terminal end when compared to other LFY/FLO homologs and thus lacks the proline rich region suggesting that this motif may not be functionally significant. None of these protein sequence motifs has yet been demonstrated to be functionally important in any of the floral meristem identity genes. It is of interest to note that eucalypts probably have two EgLFY-like genes, although one of these is probably now inactive (Southerton et al., 1998). This duplication is probably a general phenomenon within the genus, and suggests that eucalypts may have experienced ancient genome duplications and many of their genes might be expected to be present in at least two copies (Southerton et al., 1998). In addition to being expressed in floral primordia in a pattern similar to LFY and FLO, theEgLFY gene is strongly expressed in leaf primordia forming on vegetative meristems of adult plants, but not in the shoot apical meristem itself. The overall pattern of expression of EgLFY is, however, similar to other described LFY/FLO homologues (Coen et al., 1990; Weigel et al., 1992; Southerton et al., 1998; Peña et al., 2001; Carmona et al., 2002).
Experiments by Hempel et al. (1994) and Blázquez et al. (1997) using in situ hybridization and GUS reporter gene expression driven by the LFY promoter have now also established vegetative expression of LFY in both vegetative apices and young leaves of three different ecotypes of Arabidopsis grown under short day conditions. The Arabidopsis LFY gene is the earliest of the known floral identity genes to be expressed, and directly activates at least one of the later genes, APETALA1 (Wagner et al., 1999). Plants carrying fusions of the LFY promoter to the GUS marker gene were used to demonstrate that LFY expression responds both to the long-day flowering pathway and to gibberelic acid (GA). Furthermore, deletion of a putative MYB transcription factor binding site within the LFY promoter prevented activation by GA, but not by the long-day pathway (Blázquez and Weigel, 2000). We have failed to identify any putative MYB transcription factor binding site within the EgLFY promoter (data not shown). However, exogenous application of paclobutrazol reduced the concentration of endogenous GA in apical tissues of different Eucalyptus species and enhanced the reproductive activity of grafted trees (Moncur and Hasan, 1994), suggesting that in Eucalyptus, high concentrations of GA inhibits the flowering process, as opposed to what is observed in Arabidopsis. It would be interesting to investigate whether paclobutrazol can interfere with EgLFY expression.
Although the available information suggests that overexpression of LFY is sufficient to promote the conversion of shoots into flowers in woody species such as Populus spp. (Weigel and Nilsson, 1995) and Citrus spp. (Peña et al., 2001), the role of the endogenous FLO/LFY homologs and their function during meristem development are poorly understood. Genetic studies in Eucalyptus are difficult because of the long time to flowering of trees and no characterized flowering mutants have been described in this genus. Nevertheless, recent advances in the transformation of Eucalyptus species (unpublished data from our own lab) and the large-scale cloning of a number of other floral gene homologues (https://forests.esalq.usp.br) may allow us to use reverse genetic approaches and to define more clearly the role played by EgLFY in Eucalyptus vegetative and floral tissues.
Acknowledgments: To F.C.A. Tavares and G. Bandel (ESALQ/USP, Genetics Department) for providing excellent research environment. To E.W. Kitajima, for maintaining the scanning electron microscope facility at NAP/MEPA (University of Sao Paulo, ESALQ, Piracicaba, Brazil). To the staff of the Instituto de Pesquisas e Estudos Florestais (IPEF, Brazil) for assistance in collecting inflorescence samples. TAIR and the Ohio State University for the Arabidopsis seed stock maintenance. To D. Weigel (Salk Institute, La Jolla, USA) for the generous gift of plasmids pDW124, pDW132 and pSKI015. MCD acknowledges the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP) for financial support. APMR acknowledges CNPq for a research fellowship.
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Received: 25/05/2004, Accepted: 02/07/2004