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Field transcriptome analysis reveals a molecular mechanism for cassava-flowering in a mountainous environment in Southeast Asia

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The field survey in this article showed in ‘KU50’, a popular variety and late-branching type of cassava in Southeast Asia, that flowering rarely occurs in normal-field conditions in Southeast Asia but is strongly induced in the dry season in the mountainous region. Flowering time is correlated with the expression patterns of MeFT1 and homologs of Arabidopsis GI, PHYA, and NF-Ys.


Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) is a tropical crop that is propagated vegetatively rather than sexually by seed. Flowering rarely occurs in the erect-type variety grown in Southeast Asia, but it is known that cassava produces flowers every year in mountainous regions. Data pertaining to the effect of environmental factors on flowering time and gene expression in cassava, however, is limited. The aim of the present study was to determine the kinds of environmental conditions that regulate flowering time in cassava and the underlying molecular mechanisms. The flowering status of KU50, a popular variety in Southeast Asia and late-branching type of cassava, was monitored in six fields in Vietnam and Cambodia. At non-flowering and flowering field locations in North Vietnam, the two FLOWERING LOCUS T (FT)-like genes, MeFT1 and MeFT2, were characterized by qPCR, and the pattern of expression of flowering-related genes and genes responsive to environmental signals were analyzed by using RNA sequencing data from time-series samples. Results indicate that cassava flowering was induced in the dry season in the mountain region, and that flowering time was correlated with the expression of MeFT1, and homologs of Arabidopsis GI, PHYA, and NF-Ys. Based upon these data, we hypothesize that floral induction in cassava is triggered by some conditions present in the mountain regions during the dry season.

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The authors from AGI were supported by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in Vietnam under decision No. 364/QD-BNN-HTQT. Dr. Prapit Wongtiem and Ms. Suwaluk Amawan (Rayong Field Crops Research Center, Thailand) provided advice on flowering research in cassava. Mr. Nguyen Trong Hien (Root and Tuber Crop Research and Development Center, Vietnam) advised us on planting site selection and cultivation methods. This research was supported by the Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development (SATREPS) in a collaboration between the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST, JPMJSA1508) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), JSPS under the JSPS Program for Advancing Strategic International Networks to Accelerate the Circulation of Talented Researchers, and by a grant from the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science (CSRS).

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HTokunaga designed research, performed the experiments, analyzed data, and wrote the article. DTNQ, NHA, PTN designed and conducted research, analyzed data. NMA, TMH, NBNM, VAT, NBT and KY performed the experiments. NVD, LHH and MI, NHH, PS, and NAV contributed to revisions of the article. AM, ST, MT, AH analyzed transcriptome data. HTsuji, YU, MS designed research, analyzed transcriptome data, and wrote the article.

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Correspondence to Hiroki Tokunaga or Motoaki Seki.

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Tokunaga, H., Quynh, D.T.N., Anh, N.H. et al. Field transcriptome analysis reveals a molecular mechanism for cassava-flowering in a mountainous environment in Southeast Asia. Plant Mol Biol 109, 233–248 (2022).

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  • Cassava
  • Field transcriptome
  • Flowering
  • Manihot esculenta
  • MeFT1