floresLas plantas florecen normalmente en respuesta a los cambios estacionales, como los asociados con el fin del invierno o el comienzo de la primavera. Ahora, un equipo de científicos ha identificado una vía de señalización que permite florecer a las plantas incluso sin señales positivas del medio ambiente. La concentración de un pequeño fragmento de ARN en las células del vegetal opera como un reloj de arena: Un descenso en su nivel despierta a las plantas de su letargo vegetativo y permite que entren en el modo reproductivo.

¿Por qué algunas plantas florecen incluso cuando los días son cortos y grises? Unos científicos del Instituto Max Planck para la Biología del Desarrollo en Alemania han encontrado la respuesta a este interrogante: Un mecanismo endógeno les permite florecer en ausencia de influencias externas como días largos. Un pequeño segmento de ARN, llamado microARN, desempeña un papel decisivo en este proceso, pues un descenso de su concentración en la parte superior del brote activa el proceso de florecimiento.
Los microARNs son fragmentos de ARN muy cortos a los cuales se les está reconociendo cada vez más su papel como reguladores esenciales de la función de los genes en plantas y animales. Al adherirse a estructuras complementarias en un ARN mensajero, inhiben su traducción en proteína. Este proceso frena así la actividad del gen correspondiente.

Los autores del nuevo estudio han descubierto que la Arabidopsis usa este mecanismo regulador para pasar de su estado vegetativo al desarrollo reproductivo.

Un grupo de reguladores relacionados, las proteínas SPL, desempeñan un papel importante al ayudar a promover el comienzo del florecimiento. En plantas jóvenes, la producción de proteínas SPL es inhibida por los altos niveles del microARN156.

Jia-Wei Wang y sus colegas demuestran que, con independencia de las señales externas, la concentración del microARN desciende con el paso del tiempo, al igual que la arena se escurre en un reloj de arena. Cuando dicha concentración desciende por debajo de cierto nivel, se produce una cantidad suficiente de proteínas SPL para activar el proceso de florecimiento incluso en ausencia de otros reguladores que miden la duración del día o la temperatura exterior. Esto a su vez permite que una planta lo bastante adulta florezca, aún en un entorno desfavorable.

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