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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Jan 16;104(3):1081-6. Epub 2007 Jan 8.

Conservation of B class gene expression in the second whorl of a basal grass and outgroups links the origin of lodicules and petals.

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Division of Biological Sciences, Section of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of California at San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0116, USA.


Studies of flower development in core eudicot species have established a central role for B class MADS-box genes in specifying petal and stamen identities. Similarly in maize and rice, B class genes are essential for lodicule and stamen specification, suggesting homology of petals and lodicules and conservation of B class gene activity across angiosperms. However, lodicules are grass-specific organs with a morphology distinct from petals, thus their true homology to eudicot and nongrass monocot floral organs has been a topic of debate. To understand the relationship of lodicules to the sterile floral organs of nongrass monocots we have isolated and observed the expression of B class genes from a basal grass Streptochaeta that diverged before the evolution of lodicules, as well as the outgroups Joinvillea and Elegia, which have a typical monocot floral plan. Our results support a conserved role for B function genes across the angiosperms and provide additional evidence linking the evolution of lodicules and second whorl tepal/petals of monocots. The expression data and morphological analysis suggest that the function of B class genes should be broadly interpreted as required for differentiation of a distinct second floral whorl as opposed to specifying petal identity per se.

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