Physiological evidence indicates that flower formation is hormonally controlled. The floral stimulus, or florigen, is formed in the leaves as a response to an inductive photoperiod and translocated through the phloem to the apical meristem. However, because of difficulties in obtaining and analyzing phloem sap and the lack of a bioassay, the chemical nature of this stimulus is one of the major unsolved problems in plant biology. A combination of microbore high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF-MS) was used to compare the contents of the phloem sap from flowering and non-flowering plants. Instead of using one- or two-dimensional gel electrophoresis, microbore HPLC separations allowed us to detect proteins/peptides that were very small and present at very low levels. We detected more than 100 components in the phloem sap of Perilla ocymoides L. and Lupinus albus L. Sequences for 16 peptides in a mass range from 1 to 9 kDa were obtained. Two of these could be identified, 11 showed similarity to known or deduced protein sequences, and three showed no similarity to any known protein or translated gene sequence. Four of these peptides were specific to, modified, or increased in plants that were flowering, indicating their possible role in flower induction. The sequences of these peptides showed similarities to two purine permeases, a protein with similarity to protein kinases, and a protein with no similarities to any known protein.
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Hoffmann-Benning, S., Gage, D.A., McIntosh, L. et al. Comparison of peptides in the phloem sap of flowering and non-flowering Perilla and lupine plants using microbore HPLC followed by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry. Planta 216, 140–147 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00425-002-0916-0