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SISTER OF TM3 activates FRUITFULL1 to regulate inflorescence branching in tomato
Horticulture Research  (IF6.793),  Pub Date : 2021-12-01, DOI: 10.1038/s41438-021-00677-x
Xiaotian Wang, Zhiqiang Liu, Shuai Sun, Jianxin Wu, Ren Li, Haijing Wang, Xia Cui

Selection for favorable inflorescence architecture to improve yield is one of the crucial targets in crop breeding. Different tomato varieties require distinct inflorescence-branching structures to enhance productivity. While a few important genes for tomato inflorescence-branching development have been identified, the regulatory mechanism underlying inflorescence branching is still unclear. Here, we confirmed that SISTER OF TM3 (STM3), a homolog of Arabidopsis SOC1, is a major positive regulatory factor of tomato inflorescence architecture by map-based cloning. High expression levels of STM3 underlie the highly inflorescence-branching phenotype in ST024. STM3 is expressed in both vegetative and reproductive meristematic tissues and in leaf primordia and leaves, indicative of its function in flowering time and inflorescence-branching development. Transcriptome analysis shows that several floral development-related genes are affected by STM3 mutation. Among them, FRUITFULL1 (FUL1) is downregulated in stm3cr mutants, and its promoter is bound by STM3 by ChIP-qPCR analysis. EMSA and dual-luciferase reporter assays further confirmed that STM3 could directly bind the promoter region to activate FUL1 expression. Mutation of FUL1 could partially restore inflorescence-branching phenotypes caused by high STM3 expression in ST024. Our findings provide insights into the molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying inflorescence development in tomato.