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Am J Bot. 2011 Feb;98(2):227-43. doi: 10.3732/ajb.1000246. Epub 2011 Jan 19.

Changes in expression pattern of the teosinte branched1-like genes in the Zingiberales provide a mechanism for evolutionary shifts in symmetry across the order.

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Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of California Berkeley, 111 Koshland Hall, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.



Floral symmetry is a trait of key importance when considering floral diversification because it is thought to play a significant role in plant-pollinator interactions. The CYCLOIDEA/TEOSINTE BRANCHED1 (CYC/TB1)-like genes have been implicated in the development and evolution of floral symmetry in numerous lineages. We thus chose to investigate a possible role for these genes in the evolution of floral symmetry within petaloid monocots, using the order Zingiberales as a model system. In the Zingiberales, evolutionary shifts in symmetry have occurred in all floral whorls, making the order ideal for studying the evolution of this ecologically significant trait.


We analyzed TB1-like (TBL) genes from taxa spanning the order in a phylogenetic context. Using RNA in situ hybridization, we examined the expression of two TBL genes in Costus spicatus (Costaceae) and Heliconia stricta (Heliconiaceae), taxa with divergent floral symmetry patterns.


We identified Zingiberales-specific gene duplications as well as a duplication in the TBL gene lineage that predates the diversification of commelinid monocots. Shifts in TBL gene expression were associated with evolutionary shifts in floral symmetry and stamen abortion. ZinTBL1a expression was found in the posterior (adaxial) staminode of H. stricta and in the abaxial staminodial labellum of C. spicatus. ZinTBL2 expression was strongest in the anterior (abaxial) sepals of H. stricta and in the adaxial fertile stamen of C. spicatus.


This study adds to the growing body of evidence that CYC/TB1-like genes have been repeatedly recruited throughout the course of evolution to generate bilateral floral symmetry (zygomorphy).

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