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Mol Biol Evol. 2003 Sep;20(9):1435-47. Epub 2003 May 30.

Antiquity and evolution of the MADS-box gene family controlling flower development in plants.

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Institute of Molecular Evolutionary Genetics and Department of Biology, Pennsylvania State University, USA.


MADS-box genes in plants control various aspects of development and reproductive processes including flower formation. To obtain some insight into the roles of these genes in morphological evolution, we investigated the origin and diversification of floral MADS-box genes by conducting molecular evolutionary genetics analyses. Our results suggest that the most recent common ancestor of today's floral MADS-box genes evolved roughly 650 MYA, much earlier than the Cambrian explosion. They also suggest that the functional classes T (SVP), B (and Bs), C, F (AGL20 or TM3), A, and G (AGL6) of floral MADS-box genes diverged sequentially in this order from the class E gene lineage. The divergence between the class G and E genes apparently occurred around the time of the angiosperm/gymnosperm split. Furthermore, the ancestors of three classes of genes (class T genes, class B/Bs genes, and the common ancestor of the other classes of genes) might have existed at the time of the Cambrian explosion. We also conducted a phylogenetic analysis of MADS-domain sequences from various species of plants and animals and presented a hypothetical scenario of the evolution of MADS-box genes in plants and animals, taking into account paleontological information. Our study supports the idea that there are two main evolutionary lineages (type I and type II) of MADS-box genes in plants and animals.

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