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Plant Mol Biol. 2009 Oct;71(3):241-50. doi: 10.1007/s11103-009-9520-z. Epub 2009 Jul 11.

Evolution of flower shape in Plantago lanceolata.

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  • 1Department of Biology, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Ireland.


Plantago lanceolata produces small actinomorphic (radially symmetric), wind-pollinated flowers that have evolved from a zygomorphic, biotically pollinated ancestral state. To understand the developmental mechanisms that might underlie this change in flower shape, and associated change in pollination syndrome, we analyzed the role of CYC-like genes in P. lanceolata. Related zygomorphic species have two CYC-like genes that are expressed asymmetrically in the dorsal region of young floral meristems and in developing flowers, where they affect the rate of development of dorsal petals and stamens. Plantago has a single CYC-like gene (PlCYC) that is not expressed in early floral meristems and there is no apparent asymmetry in the pattern of PlCYC expression during later flower development. Thus, the evolution of actinomorphy in Plantago correlates with loss of dorsal-specific CYC-like gene function. PlCYC is expressed in the inflorescence stem, in pedicels, and relatively late in stamen development, suggesting a novel role for PlCYC in compacting the inflorescence and retarding stamen elongation in this wind pollinated species.

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