WARF: P04198US

Vernalization-Related Molecules and Methods for Inducing Permanent Changes in Plant Gene Expression


Richard Amasino, Si-Bum Sung, Yuehui He

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is seeking commercial partners interested in developing a technology that may be used to prevent vernalization and control flowering time.
OVERVIEWVernalization is a process through which plants become competent to flower following exposure to long periods of cold. Plants do not necessarily begin to flower after vernalization, but acquire the ability to do so.
THE INVENTIONUW-Madison researchers have identified a novel polypeptide, VIN3, that plays a role in vernalization. During exposure to cold, VIN3 represses FLC, one of the two main genes responsible for flowering in plants. High FLC expression levels inhibit flowering; thus, by repressing FLC, VIN3 helps promote flowering. During vernalization, VIN3 likely represses FLC by hypoacetylating FLC chromatin, triggering histone modifications that result in a stable, repressed heterochromatin state.

This VIN3-mediated process can be applied in other organisms to cause a permanent change in gene expression. The components of the process, including VIN3, can be used to transform a host organism in which a selected gene has been modified to contain certain FLC sequences. These components are preferably under the control of an inducible promoter, which allows the user to trigger at will the development of stable repressed or active chromatin at the target gene. This, in turn, results in an alteration in gene expression that is stable through subsequent plant cell mitotic cycles.
  • Controlling flowering time to improve crop yield
  • By blocking expression of VIN3, this technology may be used to prevent vernalization and control flowering time.
  • Control of flowering time can potentially improve the yield of various seeds, fruits, and vegetable crops.
  • Only a transient induction agent is needed to trigger the VIN3-mediated process that leads to a permanent change in gene expression.
  • Represents a breakthrough technology for inducing changes in target genes: Changes are stable and permanent through the plant life cycle but will be reset in the next generation.
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Contact Information
For current licensing status, please contact Emily Bauer at or 608-960-9842.
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