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Mol Biol Evol. 2009 Nov;26(11):2627-45. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msp181. Epub 2009 Aug 13.

Pistillata--duplications as a mode for floral diversification in (Basal) asterids.

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Laboratory of Plant Systematics, Institute of Botany and Microbiology, P.O. Box 2437, Leuven, Belgium.


Basal asterid families, and to a lesser extent the asterids as a whole, are characterized by a high variation in petal and stamen morphology. Moreover, the stamen number, the adnation of stamens to petals, and the degree of sympetaly vary considerably among basal asterid taxa. The B group genes, members of the APETALA3 (AP3) and PISTILLATA (PI) gene lineages, have been shown to specify petal and stamen identities in several core eudicot species. Duplicate genes in these lineages have been shown in some cases to have diversified in their function; for instance in Petunia, a PI paralog is required for the fusion of stamens to the corolla tube, illustrating that such genes belonging to this lineage are not just involved in specifying the identity of the stamens and petals but can also specify novel floral morphologies. This motivated us to study the duplication history of class B genes throughout asterid lineages, which comprise approximately one-third of all flowering plants. The evolutionary history of the PI gene subfamily indicates that the two genes in Petunia result from an ancient duplication event, coinciding with the origin of core asterids. A second duplication event occurred before the speciation of basal asterid Ericales families. These and other duplications in the PI lineage are not correlated with duplications in the AP3 lineage. To understand the molecular evolution of the Ericales PI genes after duplication, we have described their expression patterns using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction and in situ hybridization, reconstructed how selection shaped their protein sequences and tested their protein interaction specificity with other class B proteins. We find that after duplication, PI paralogs have acquired multiple different expression patterns and negative selective pressure on their codons is relaxed, whereas substitutions in sites putatively involved in protein-protein interactions show positive selection, allowing for a change in the interaction behavior of the PI paralogs after duplication. Together, these observations suggest that the asterids have preferentially recruited PI duplicate genes to diverse and potentially novel roles in asterid flower development.

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