Evolution of vernalization response in the PACMAD clade of the grass family (Poaceae)

Vernalization is a physiological process that establishes floral meristem identity in response to prolonged periods of cold. Thereby, production of flowers in overwintering plants is aligned with the onset of spring, synchronizing reproduction with favorable environmental conditions. Proper timing of developmental transitions is crucial to the success of plants in regions with pronounced seasonal variation. Many vernalization systems have evolved in independently in different plant lineages. This allowed the expansion of certain plant groups from their tropical origins into novel habitats at higher latitudes. Due to its significance in agriculture, vernalization mechanisms of species from the mainly temperate grass subfamily Pooideae is well-studied and has been characterized on a molecular level. Recent advances demonstrate that the core regulatory network governing vernalization response is evolutionarily conserved within the Pooideae (McKeown et al. 2016).

In this project, we seek to investigate whether this is true for other temperate grass lineages, focusing on species from the monophyletic PACMAD clade comprised of six distinct grass-subfamilies.