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Overexpression of LEAFY in apple leads to a columnar phenotype with shorter internodes.

To break the juvenile stage of apple (Malus x domestica Borkh.) we transferred the LFY gene of Arabidopsis into the genome of the apple cv. ‚Pinova‘. A total of five transgenic clones constitutively overexpressing the LFY gene were obtained. Approximately, 20 shoots of each clone were rooted and transferred to the glasshouse. No flowers were obtained on transgenic plants during the first 2 years of cultivation. Evaluation of the expression of possible LFY targets revealed that no transcripts could be detected for MdAP1-1 and MdAP1-2. MdTFL1 was unaffected. Based on the absence of the LFY core-binding sequence within promoter sequences of MdAP1-1 and MdAP1-2, it was concluded that LFY was not able to induce these genes. The LFY genes of apple were unaffected in transgenic plants and sequence alignments of the C-terminal amino acid sequence showed a high conservation of these proteins. A change in binding ability to DNA can therefore be excluded. Instead of early flowering, the transgenic plants showed an altered phenotype, which is similar to the columnar phenotype of the ‚McIntosh Wijcik‘ mutant of apple. The transgenic plants showed shortened internodes and a significantly reduced length of the regrowing shoot. A negative correlation was observed between the length of the regrowing shoot and the LFY mRNA transcript level. Furthermore, the LFY transgenic apple plants showed an increased shoot diameter at node 20, which was positively correlated with the LFY mRNA transcript level. Based on our results, we assume an alternative role of LFY in apple.

Flachowsky, H., C. Hättasch, M. Höfer, A. Peil, M.-V. Hanke. 2010. Overexpression of LEAFY in apple leads to a columnar phenotype with shorter internodes. Planta 231: 251-263.