FT overexpression induces precocious flowering and normal reproductive development in Eucalyptus
Plant Biotechnol J. 2016, 14 (2):808-819

Klocko AL, Ma C, Robertson S, Esfandiari E, Nilsson O, Strauss SH

Eucalyptus trees are among the most important species for industrial forestry worldwide. However, as with most forest trees, flowering does not begin for one to several years after planting which can limit the rate of conventional and molecular breeding. To speed flowering, we transformed a Eucalyptus grandis × urophylla hybrid (SP7) with a variety of constructs that enable overexpression of FLOWERING LOCUS T (FT). We found that FT expression led to very early flowering, with events showing floral buds within 1-5 months of transplanting to the glasshouse. The most rapid flowering was observed when the cauliflower mosaic virus 35S promoter was used to drive the Arabidopsis thaliana FT gene (AtFT). Early flowering was also observed with AtFT overexpression from a 409S ubiquitin promoter and under heat induction conditions with Populus trichocarpa FT1 (PtFT1) under control of a heat-shock promoter. Early flowering trees grew robustly, but exhibited a highly branched phenotype compared to the strong apical dominance of nonflowering transgenic and control trees. AtFT-induced flowers were morphologically normal and produced viable pollen grains and viable self- and cross-pollinated seeds. Many self-seedlings inherited AtFT and flowered early. FT overexpression-induced flowering in Eucalyptus may be a valuable means for accelerating breeding and genetic studies as the transgene can be easily segregated away in progeny, restoring normal growth and form.

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