Causal Role of a Promoter Polymorphism in Natural Variation of the Arabidopsis Floral Repressor Gene FLC
Published:09 Oct.2023    Source:Current Biology
Noncoding polymorphism frequently associates with phenotypic variation, but causation and mechanism are rarely established. Noncoding single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) characterize the major haplotypes of the Arabidopsis thaliana floral repressor gene FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC). This noncoding polymorphism generates a range of FLC expression levels, determining the requirement for and the response to winter cold. The major adaptive determinant of these FLC haplotypes was shown to be the autumnal levels of FLC expression.
Here, we investigate how noncoding SNPs influence FLC transcriptional output. We identify an upstream transcription start site (uTSS) cluster at FLC, whose usage is increased by an A variant at the promoter SNP−230. This variant is present in relatively few Arabidopsis accessions, with the majority containing G at this site. We demonstrate a causal role for the A variant at −230 in reduced FLC transcriptional output. The G variant upregulates FLC expression redundantly with the major transcriptional activator FRIGIDA (FRI).

We demonstrate an additive interaction of SNP−230 with an intronic SNP+259, which also differentially influences uTSS usage. Combinatorial interactions between noncoding SNPs and transcriptional activators thus generate quantitative variation in FLC transcription that has facilitated the adaptation of Arabidopsis accessions to distinct climates.