Haplotype Variation of Flowering Time Genes of Sugar Beet and Its Wild Relatives and the Impact on Life Cycle Regimes

The species Beta vulgaris encompasses wild and cultivated members with a broad range of phenological development. The annual life cycle is commonly found in sea beets (ssp. maritima) from Mediterranean environments which germinate, bolt, and flower within one season under long day conditions. Biennials such as the cultivated sugar beet (B. vulgaris ssp. vulgaris) as well as sea beets from northern latitudes require prolonged exposure to cold temperature over winter to acquire floral competence. Sugar beet is mainly cultivated for sugar production in Europe and is likely to have originated from sea beet. Flowering time strongly affects seed yield and yield potential and is thus a trait of high agronomic relevance. Besides environmental cues, there are complex genetic networks known to impact life cycle switch in flowering plants. In sugar beet, BTC1, BvBBX19, BvFT1, and BvFT2 are major flowering time regulators. In this study, we phenotyped plants from a diversity Beta panel encompassing cultivated and wild species from different geographical origin. Plants were grown under different day length regimes with and without vernalization. Haplotype analysis of BTC1, BvBBX19, BvFT1, and BvFT2 was performed to identify natural diversity of these genes and their impact on flowering. We found that accessions from northern latitudes flowered significantly later than those from southern latitudes. Some plants did not flower at all, indicating a strong impact of latitude of origin on life cycle. Haplotype analysis revealed a high conservation of the CCT-, REC-, BBX-, and PEBP-domains with regard to SNP occurrence. We identified sequence variation which may impact life cycle adaptation in beet. Our data endorse the importance of BTC1 in the domestication process of cultivated beets and contribute to the understanding of distribution and adaption of Beta species to different life cycle regimes in response to different environments. Moreover, our data provide a resource for haplotypes identified for the major floral regulators in beet.


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