Nulliplex-branch, a TERMINAL FLOWER 1 ortholog, controls plant growth habit in cotton
Nulliplex-branch (nb) mutants in cotton display a specific architecture. The gene responsible for the nb phenotype was identified, and its modulation mode was further studied.
Plant architecture is an important agronomic factor influencing various traits such as yield and variety adaptability in crop plants. Cotton (Gossypium) simultaneously displays monopodial and sympodial growth. Nulliplex-branch (nb) mutants showing determinate sympodial shoots have been reported in both G. hirsutum (Ghnb) and G. barbadense (Gbnb). In this study, the gene responsible for the nb phenotype was identified. GhNB and GbNB were found to be allelic loci and are TERMINAL FLOWER 1 orthologs on the Dt subgenome, though the At copies remain native. Sequencing and association analyses identified four (Gh-nb1–Gh-nb4) and one (Gb-nb1) type of point mutation in the coding sequences of Ghnb and Gbnb, respectively. The NB gene was mainly expressed in the root and shoot apex, and expression rhythms were also observed in these tissues, suggesting that the expression of the NB gene could be regulated by photoperiod. Constitutive overexpression of GhNB suppresses the differentiation of the reproductive shoots. Knockout of both copies of GhNB caused the main and lateral shoots to terminate in flowers, which is a more determinate architecture than that of the nb mutants and implies that its function might be dosage dependent. A protein lipid overlay assay indicated that the amino acid substitutions in Gh-nb1 and Gb-nb1 weaken the ligand-binding activity of the NB protein in vitro. These findings suggest that the NB gene plays crucial roles in regulating the determinacy of shoots, and the modulation of this gene should constitute an effective crop improvement approach through adjusting the growth habit of cotton.
This research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31671740). We thank the national mid-term cotton gene bank of ICR-CAAS for providing the cotton materials.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
The authors declare that the experiments comply with the current laws of China.
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