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Plant Cell. Aug 1997; 9(8): 1289–1304.
PMCID: PMC156998

A gene fusion at a homeobox locus: alterations in leaf shape and implications for morphological evolution.


Compound leaves are seen in many angiosperm genera and are thought to be either fundamentally different from simple leaves or elaborations of simple leaves. The knotted1-like homeobox (knox) genes are known to regulate plant development. When overexpressed in homologous or heterologous species, this family of genes can cause changes in leaf morphology, including excessive leaf compounding in tomato. We describe here an instance of a spontaneously arisen fusion between a gene encoding a metabolic enzyme and a homeodomain protein. We show that the fusion results in overexpression of the homeodomain protein and a change in morphology that approximates the changes caused by overexpression of the same gene under the control of the cauliflower mosaic virus 35S promoter in transgenic plants. Exon-shuffling events can account for the modularity of proteins. If the shuffled exons are associated with altered promoters, changes in gene expression patterns can result. Our results show that gene fusions of this nature can cause changes in expression patterns that lead to altered morphology. We suggest that such phenomena may have played a role in the evolution of form.

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Selected References

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