Plants are stationary and need to adapt to the environment they live in. Integration of environmental cues, such as changes in light and temperature, can occur either directly or through the action of hormones. Hormone and light signaling leads to rapid changes in gene expression, and eventually changes in protein levels. In this thesis I have studied how the epigenetic regulator TERMINAL FLOWER2 (TFL2) is involved in light and hormonal signaling in the model organism Arabidopsis thaliana (thale cress). TFL2 is the only Arabidopsis homologue of HETEROCHROMATIN PROTEIN1 (HP1). HP1 proteins have been shown to be involved in repressing gene expression by maintaining the tight structure of heterochromatin or by forming a heterochromatin like structure in euchromatic regions. Unlike metazoan HP1 which can be localized both to eu- and heterochromatin, TFL2 is uniquely localized to euchromatin.
tfl2 mutants have reduced levels of free auxin and a reduced rate of auxin biosynthesis. TFL2 binds to and promotes spatial and temporal expression of the genes belonging to the YUCCA gene family, which are believed to regulate a rate limiting step in the auxin biosynthesis pathway. Further, TFL2 binds to a subset of Aux/IAA proteins to repress auxin regulated genes involved in ovule and carpel development. In a similar way, TFL2 is also involved in repressing two jasmonate responsive genes, VEGETATIVE STORAGE PROTEIN1 and 2. This TFL2 regulated repression might occur through the interaction with the jasmonate responsive protein JAZ6.
In light signaling TFL2 is involved in repressing both phytochrome A and B signaling as the response to red and far red light is enhanced in tfl2 mutants. The shade avoidance response and chloroplast biogenesis are also regulated by TFL2 as the hypocotyls of tfl2 are not able to elongate as wt in shade conditions and greening is delayed upon de-etiolation of tfl2 seedlings.
This work shows that TFL2 has a repressive function in auxin, jasmonate and light signaling and for the first time we show that TFL2 is directly involved in promoting gene expression.