Jin, J., Klasfeld, S., Zhu, Y., Fernandez Garcia, M., Xiao, J., Han, S.K., Konkol, A., Zhu, Y. & Wagner, D. (2021). LEAFY is a pioneer transcription factor and licenses cell reprogramming to floral fate. Nature Communications, 12(1), 626.
Master transcription factors reprogram cell fate in multicellular eukaryotes. Pioneer transcription factors have prominent roles in this process because of their ability to contact their cognate binding motifs in closed chromatin. Reprogramming is pervasive in plants, whose development is plastic and tuned by the environment, yet little is known about pioneer transcription factors in this kingdom. Here, we show that the master transcription factor LEAFY (LFY), which promotes floral fate through upregulation of the floral commitment factor APETALA1 (AP1), is a pioneer transcription factor. In vitro, LFY binds to the endogenous AP1 target locus DNA assembled into a nucleosome. In vivo, LFY associates with nucleosome occupied binding sites at the majority of its target loci, including AP1. Upon binding, LFY ‘unlocks’ chromatin locally by displacing the H1 linker histone and by recruiting SWI/SNF chromatin remodelers, but broad changes in chromatin accessibility occur later. Our study provides a mechanistic framework for patterning of inflorescence architecture and uncovers striking similarities between LFY and animal pioneer transcription factor.