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Genetics. 1995 May;140(1):345-56.

Molecular evolution of flower development: diversification of the plant MADS-box regulatory gene family.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla 92093, USA.


Floral homeotic genes that control the specification of meristem and organ identity in developing flowers have been isolated from both Arabidopsis thaliana and Antirrhinum majus. Most of these genes belong to a large family of regulatory genes and possess a characteristic DNA binding domain known as the MADS-box. Members of this gene family display primarily floral-specific expression and are homologous to transcription factors found in several animal and fungal species. Molecular evolutionary analyses reveal that there are appreciable differences in the substitution rates between different domains of these plant MADS-box genes. Phylogenetic analyses also demonstrate that members of the plant MADS-box gene family are organized into several distinct gene groups: the AGAMOUS, APETALA3/PISTILLATA and APETALA1/AGL9 groups. The shared evolutionary history of members of a gene group appear to reflect the distinct functional roles these MADS-box genes play in flower development. Molecular evolutionary analyses also suggest that these different gene groups were established in a relatively short span of evolutionary time and that the various floral homeotic loci originated even before the appearance of the flowering plants.

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