Total FLC transcript dynamics from divergent paralogue expression explains flowering diversity in Brassica napus.
Flowering time is a key adaptive and agronomic trait. In Arabidopsis, natural variation in expression levels of the floral repressor FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC) leads to differences in vernalization. In Brassica napus there are nine copies of FLC. Here, we study how these multiple FLC paralogues determine vernalization requirement as a system. We collected transcriptome time series for Brassica napus spring, winter, semi-winter, and Siberian kale crop types. Modelling was used to link FLC expression dynamics to floral response following vernalization. We show that relaxed selection pressure has allowed expression of FLC paralogues to diverge, resulting in variation of FLC expression during cold treatment between paralogues and accessions. We find that total FLC expression dynamics best explains differences in cold requirement between cultivars, rather than expression of specific FLC paralogues. The combination of multiple FLC paralogues with different expression dynamics leads to rich behaviour in response to cold and a wide range of vernalization requirements in B. napus. We find evidence for different strategies to determine the response to cold in existing winter rapeseed accessions.