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 investigated by quantitative methods.
The earliest detectable changes are seen 18 h after the start of the inductive long day. One of these changes is the replacement of the large vacuoles of the cells of vegetative meristems by an increased number of smaller vacuoles in the cells of meristems of plants induced to flower (evoked meristems). The other earliest change is an increase in size of the chondriome. Remarkably enough both changes have in common that they lead to an increase in membrane area and are thus concerned with increased membrane synthesis. In this respect this very early effect of the leaf-generated floral stimulus is very similar to that produced by various animal and plant hormones in their respective target tissues.
The large rise in chondriome size is paralleled by an increase in succinic dehydrogenase activity. Both changes certainly reflect a rise in cellular respiratory activity which produces the necessary energy supply for the morphogenetic switch.
As the size of the plastidome does not change during the transition to flowering, the plastidome:chondriome ratio decreases markedly.
The size of the cytoplasmic matrix is greater in cells of evoked meristems than in cells of vegetative meristems. A first size maximum is reached at 26 h after the start of the 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. The increases in amount of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and dictyosome number that are found in evoked meristems collected just prior to or at the time of the second mitotic wave are also probably related to the mitotic activation of the tissue.
As the size of the vacuolar apparatus considered as a whole does not change at all and the size of the cytoplasmic matrix increases, the vacuoles:cytoplasm ratio decreases in evoked meristems collected following 26 h after the start of the long day. Also, there is an unexpected decrease in the nucleus:cytoplasm ratio in the cells of evoked meristems after 46 h.