COOLAIR and PRC2 function in parallel to silence FLC during vernalization

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Non-coding transcription induces chromatin changes that can mediate 23 environmental responsiveness, butthe causes and consequences of these mechanisms are still unclear. Here, we investigate how antisense transcription (termed COOLAIR) interfaces with Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 silencing during winter-induced epigenetic regulation of Arabidopsis FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC). We use genetic and chromatin analyses on lines ineffective or hyperactive for the antisense pathway in combination with computational modelling to define the mechanisms underlying FLC repression. Our results show that FLC is silenced through pathways that function with different dynamics: a COOLAIR transcription30 mediated pathway capable of fast response; and in parallel a slow Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 (PRC2) switching mechanism that maintains each allele in an epigenetically silenced state. Components of both the COOLAIR and PRC2 pathways are regulated by a common transcriptional regulator (NTL8), which accumulates by reduced dilution due to slow growth at low temperature. The parallel activities of the regulatory steps, and their control by temperature-dependent growth dynamics, create a flexible system for registering widely fluctuating natural temperature conditions that change year on year, and yet ensure robust epigenetic silencing of FLC.