Transition to flowering was induced in the shoot apical meristem of Sinapis alba (mustard), a long-day species, by subjecting vegetative plants to a single 22-h long day. The ultrastructural changes occurring in the meristematic cells during the complete morphogenetic switch were quantitatively investigated using both the planimetric and the point-counting stereological methods. The 2 methods yield very similar results and are thus equally appropriate for the study.
The cell, nucleus, and dispersed chromatin sizes are greater in meristems of plants induced to flower (evoked meristems) than in meristems of control vegetative plants. A first size maximum is reached at 26 h after the start of the inductive long day and a second at 54 h. These 2 maxima occur just prior to 2 mitotic waves culminating respectively at 26-30 and 62 h.
Neither the condensed chromatin size nor the number of chromocentre profiles per nucleus section change. Consequently the dispersed chromatin: condensed chromatin ratio increases in evoked meristems. This change is discussed in relation to current views on the differential genetic activity of the 2 kinds of chromatin.
There is a late but large increase in size of the nucleolus. Dramatic changes in texture are associated with the enlargement of this organelle. These changes are the disappearance of the segregation of fibrillar and granular components and a loss of compactness due to marked vacuolation. All these changes in size and structure are interpreted as indicating a late increase in nucleolar synthesis of ribosomes in the evoked meristems.