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Ann Bot. 2007 Sep;100(3):651-7. Epub 2007 Jul 23.

Functional conservation between CRABS CLAW orthologues from widely diverged angiosperms.

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  • 1Laboratoire de Reproduction et Développement des Plantes, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, 46, allée d'Italie, 69364 Lyon Cedex 07, France.



CRABS CLAW (CRC) encodes a transcription factor of the YABBY family that plays important roles in carpel and nectary development in Arabidopsis thaliana. Combined evolutionary and developmental studies suggest an ancestor of the CRC gene to have controlled carpel development in the last common ancestor of the angiosperms. Roles for CRC orthologues in leaf development and carpel specification in rice, and in nectary development in core eudicots, have accordingly been interpreted as derived. The aim of this study was to assess the capacity of CRC orthologues from a basal angiosperm and from rice to complement CRC mutants of arabidopsis. These experiments were designed to test the hypothesized ancestral role of CRC in the angiosperms, and to indicate whether putatively novel roles of various CRC orthologues resulted from changes to their encoded proteins, or from other molecular evolutionary events.


The crc-1 mutant of arabidopsis was genetically transformed with the coding sequences of various CRC orthologues, and with paralogous YABBY coding sequences, under the control of the arabidopsis CRC promoter. The phenotypes of transformed plants were assessed to determine the degree of complementation of the crc-1 mutant phenotype in carpel fusion, carpel form and nectary development.


The CRC orthologue from the basal angiosperm Amborella trichopoda partially complemented the crc-1 mutant phenotype in carpels, but not in nectaries. The CRC orthologue from rice partially complemented all aspects of the crc-1 mutant phenotype. Though most non-CRC YABBY coding sequences did not complement crc-1 mutant phenotypes, YABBY2 (YAB2) proved to be an exception.


The data support a hypothesized ancestral role for CRC in carpel development and suggest that novel roles for CRC orthologues in monocots and in core eudicots resulted principally from molecular changes other than those affecting their coding sequences.

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