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Genetics. 2004 Nov;168(3):1585-99.

Dissection of floral pollination syndromes in Petunia.

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  • 1Institute of Plant Sciences, University of Berne, CH-3013 Berne, Switzerland.


Animal-mediated pollination is essential in the reproductive biology of many flowering plants and tends to be associated with pollination syndromes, sets of floral traits that are adapted to particular groups of pollinators. The complexity and functional convergence of various traits within pollination syndromes are outstanding examples of biological adaptation, raising questions about their mechanisms and origins. In the genus Petunia, complex pollination syndromes are found for nocturnal hawkmoths (P. axillaris) and diurnal bees (P. integrifolia), with characteristic differences in petal color, corolla shape, reproductive organ morphology, nectar quantity, nectar quality, and fragrance. We dissected the Petunia syndromes into their most important phenotypic and genetic components. They appear to include several distinct differences, such as cell-growth and cell-division patterns in the basal third of the petals, elongation of the ventral stamens, nectar secretion and nectar sugar metabolism, and enzymatic differentiation in the phenylpropanoid pathway. In backcross-inbred lines of species-derived chromosome segments in a transposon tagging strain of P. hybrida, one to five quantitative trait loci were identified for each syndrome component. Two loci for stamen elongation and nectar volume were confirmed in introgression lines and showed large allelic differences. The combined data provide a framework for a detailed understanding of floral syndromes from their developmental and molecular basis to their impact on animal behavior. With its molecular genetic tools, this Petunia system provides a novel venue for a pattern of adaptive radiation that is among the most characteristic of flowering plants.

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