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Plant Cell. 2004 Mar;16(3):741-54. Epub 2004 Feb 18.

The duplicated B-class heterodimer model: whorl-specific effects and complex genetic interactions in Petunia hybrida flower development.

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  • 1Department of Plant Systems Biology, Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie/Ghent University, B-9052 Zwijnaarde, Belgium.


In both Antirrhinum (Antirrhinum majus) and Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana), the floral B-function, which specifies petal and stamen development, is embedded in a heterodimer consisting of one DEFICIENS (DEF)/APETALA3 (AP3)-like and one GLOBOSA (GLO)/PISTILLATA (PI)-like MADS box protein. Here, we demonstrate that gene duplications in both the DEF/AP3 and GLO/PI lineages in Petunia hybrida (petunia) have led to a functional diversification of their respective members, which is reflected by partner specificity and whorl-specific functions among these proteins. Previously, it has been shown that mutations in PhDEF (formerly known as GREEN PETALS) only affect petal development. We have isolated insertion alleles for PhGLO1 (FLORAL BINDING PROTEIN1) and PhGLO2 (PETUNIA MADS BOX GENE2) and demonstrate unique and redundant properties of PhDEF, PhGLO1, and PhGLO2. Besides a full homeotic conversion of petals to sepals and of stamens to carpels as observed in phglo1 phglo2 and phdef phglo2 flowers, we found that gene dosage effects for several mutant combinations cause qualitative and quantitative changes in whorl 2 and 3 meristem fate, and we show that the PHDEF/PHGLO1 heterodimer controls the fusion of the stamen filaments with the petal tube. Nevertheless, when the activity of PhDEF, PhGLO1, and PhGLO2 are considered jointly, they basically appear to function as DEF/GLO does in Antirrhinum and to a lesser extent as AP3/PI in Arabidopsis. By contrast, our data suggest that the function of the fourth B-class MADS box member, the paleoAP3-type PETUNIA HYBRIDA TM6 (PhTM6) gene, differs significantly from the known euAP3-type DEF/AP3-like proteins; PhTM6 is mainly expressed in the developing stamens and ovary of wild-type flowers, whereas its expression level is upregulated in whorls 1 and 2 of an A-function floral mutant; PhTM6 is most likely not involved in petal development. The latter is consistent with the hypothesis that the evolutionary origin of the higher eudicot petal structure coincided with the appearance of the euAP3-type MADS box genes.

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