Coincident light and clock regulation of pseudoresponse regulator protein 37 (PRR37) controls photoperiodic flowering in sorghum
Optimal flowering time is critical to the success of modern agriculture. Sorghum is a short-day tropical species that exhibits substantial photoperiod sensitivity and delayed flowering in long days. Genotypes with reduced photoperiod sensitivity enabled sorghum's utilization as a grain crop in temperate zones worldwide. In the present study, Ma1, the major repressor of sorghum flowering in long days, was identified as the pseudoresponse regulator protein 37 (PRR37) through positional cloning and analysis of SbPRR37 alleles that modulate flowering time in grain and energy sorghum. Several allelic variants of SbPRR37 were identified in early flowering grain sorghum germplasm that contain unique loss-of-function mutations. We show that in long days SbPRR37 activates expression of the floral inhibitor CONSTANS and represses expression of the floral activators Early Heading Date 1, FLOWERING LOCUS T, Zea mays CENTRORADIALIS 8, and floral induction. Expression of SbPRR37 is light dependent and regulated by the circadian clock, with peaks of RNA abundance in the morning and evening in long days. In short days, the evening-phase expression of SbPRR37 does not occur due to darkness, allowing sorghum to flower in this photoperiod. This study provides insight into an external coincidence mechanism of photoperiodic regulation of flowering time mediated by PRR37 in the short-day grass sorghum and identifies important alleles of SbPRR37 that are critical for the utilization of this tropical grass in temperate zone grain and bioenergy production.