Switchgrass, a forage and bioenergy crop, occurs as two main ecotypes with different but overlapping ranges of adaptation. The two ecotypes differ in a range of characteristics, including flowering time. Flowering time determines the duration of vegetative development and therefore biomass accumulation, a key trait in bioenergy crops. No causal variants for flowering time differences between switchgrass ecotypes have, as yet, been identified. In this study, we mapped a robust flowering time quantitative trait locus (QTL) on chromosome 4K in a biparental F2 population and characterized the flowering-associated transcription factor gene PvHd1, an ortholog of CONSTANS in Arabidopsis and Heading date 1 in rice, as the underlying causal gene. Protein modeling predicted that a serine to glycine substitution at position 35 (p.S35G) in B-Box domain 1 greatly altered the global structure of the PvHd1 protein. The predicted variation in protein compactness was supported in vitro by a 4 °C shift in denaturation temperature. Overexpressing the PvHd1-p.35S allele in a late-flowering CONSTANS-null Arabidopsis mutant rescued earlier flowering, whereas PvHd1-p.35G had a reduced ability to promote flowering, demonstrating that the structural variation led to functional divergence. Our findings provide us with a tool to manipulate the timing of floral transition in switchgrass cultivars and, potentially, expand their cultivation range.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Plant Science