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PLoS Comput Biol. 2009 Jan;5(1):e1000264. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000264. Epub 2009 Jan 16.

Developmental robustness by obligate interaction of class B floral homeotic genes and proteins.

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  • 1Department of Computer Science, Friedrich Schiller University, Jena, Germany. thlenser@inf.uni-jena.de


DEF-like and GLO-like class B floral homeotic genes encode closely related MADS-domain transcription factors that act as developmental switches involved in specifying the identity of petals and stamens during flower development. Class B gene function requires transcriptional upregulation by an autoregulatory loop that depends on obligate heterodimerization of DEF-like and GLO-like proteins. Because switch-like behavior of gene expression can be displayed by single genes already, the functional relevance of this complex circuitry has remained enigmatic. On the basis of a stochastic in silico model of class B gene and protein interactions, we suggest that obligate heterodimerization of class B floral homeotic proteins is not simply the result of neutral drift but enhanced the robustness of cell-fate organ identity decisions in the presence of stochastic noise. This finding strongly corroborates the view that the appearance of this regulatory mechanism during angiosperm phylogeny led to a canalization of flower development and evolution.

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