The transition to flowering is characterized by a shift of the shoot apical meristem (SAM) from leaf production to the initiation of a floral meristem. The flowering process is of vital importance for agriculture, but the associated events or regulatory pathways in the SAM are not well understood, especially at a system level. To address this issue, we have used a GeneChip® containing 37 744 probe sets to generate a temporal profile of gene expression during the floral initiation process in the SAM of the crop legume, soybean (Glycine max). A total of 331 transcripts displayed significant changes in their expression profiles. The in silico and RT-PCR analysis on differentially regulated transcripts implies the intriguing involvement of sugar, auxin or abscisic acid (ABA) in events prior to the induction of floral homeotic transcripts. The novel involvement of ABA in the floral transition is further implicated by immunoassay, suggesting an increase in ABA levels in the SAM during this developmental transition. Furthermore, in situ localization, together with in silico data demonstrating a marked enhancement of abiotic stress-related transcripts, such as trehalose metabolism genes in SAMs, points to an overlap of abiotic stress and floral signalling pathways
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