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Mol Biol Evol. 2005 Apr;22(4):1082-94. Epub 2005 Feb 2.

Molecular evolution of FLORICAULA/LEAFY orthologs in the Andropogoneae (Poaceae).

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Department of Genetics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA.


Members of the grass family (Poaceae) exhibit a broad range of inflorescence structures and other morphologies, making the grasses an interesting model system for studying the evolution of development. Here we present an analysis of the molecular evolution of FLORICAULA/LEAFY-like genes, which are important developmental regulatory loci known to affect inflorescence development in a wide range of flowering plant species. We have focused on sequences from the Andropogoneae, a tribe within the grass family that includes maize (Zea mays ssp. mays) and Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor). The FLORICAULA/LEAFY gene phylogeny we generated largely agrees with previously published phylogenies for the Andropogoneae using other nuclear genes but is unique in that it includes both members of one of the many duplicate gene sets present in maize. The placement of these sequences in the phylogeny suggests that the duplication of the maize FLORICAULA/LEAFY orthologs, zfl1 and zfl2, is a consequence of a proposed tetraploidy event that occurred in the common ancestor of Zea and a closely related genus, Tripsacum. Our data are consistent with the hypothesis that the transcribed regions of the FLORICAULA/LEAFY-like genes in the Andropogoneae are functionally constrained at both nonsynonymous and synonymous sites and show no evidence of directional selection. We also examined conservation of short noncoding sequences in the first intron, which may play a role in gene regulation. Finally, we investigated the genetic diversity of one of the two maize FLORICAULA/LEAFY orthologs, zfl2, in maize and its wild ancestor, teosinte (Z. mays ssp. parviglumis), and found no evidence for selection pressure resulting from maize domestication within the zfl2-coding region.

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