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Genetics. 2006 Sep;174(1):421-37. Epub 2006 Jul 2.

Reconstructing the evolutionary history of paralogous APETALA1/FRUITFULL-like genes in grasses (Poaceae).

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Missouri, Saint Louis, Missouri 63121, USA.


Gene duplication is an important mechanism for the generation of evolutionary novelty. Paralogous genes that are not silenced may evolve new functions (neofunctionalization) that will alter the developmental outcome of preexisting genetic pathways, partition ancestral functions (subfunctionalization) into divergent developmental modules, or function redundantly. Functional divergence can occur by changes in the spatio-temporal patterns of gene expression and/or by changes in the activities of their protein products. We reconstructed the evolutionary history of two paralogous monocot MADS-box transcription factors, FUL1 and FUL2, and determined the evolution of sequence and gene expression in grass AP1/FUL-like genes. Monocot AP1/FUL-like genes duplicated at the base of Poaceae and codon substitutions occurred under relaxed selection mostly along the branch leading to FUL2. Following the duplication, FUL1 was apparently lost from early diverging taxa, a pattern consistent with major changes in grass floral morphology. Overlapping gene expression patterns in leaves and spikelets indicate that FUL1 and FUL2 probably share some redundant functions, but that FUL2 may have become temporally restricted under partial subfunctionalization to particular stages of floret development. These data have allowed us to reconstruct the history of AP1/FUL-like genes in Poaceae and to hypothesize a role for this gene duplication in the evolution of the grass spikelet.

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