• gymnosperm;
  • Picea abies;
  • protoderm;
  • homeobox;
  • HD-GL2;
  • evolution of seed plants


Summary: In angiosperms, the protoderm or outer cell layer is the first tissue to differentiate in the embryo proper. In gymnosperms, it is not known whether a protoderm is defined and similarly differentiated. Here, we report a cDNA designated PaHB1 (for Picea abies Homeobox1), which is expressed during somatic embryogenesis in Norway spruce. PaHB1 exon/intron organization and its corresponding protein are highly similar to those of the HD-GL2 angiosperm counterparts. A phylogenetic analysis reveals that PaHB1 is strongly associated with one subclass consisting of protoderm/epiderm-specific genes. Moreover, PaHB1 expression switches from a ubiquitous expression in proembryogenic masses to an outer cell layer-specific localization during somatic embryo development. Ectopic expression of PaHB1 in somatic embryos leads to an early developmental block. The transformed embryos lack a smooth surface. These findings show that the PaHB1 expression pattern is highly analogous to angiosperm HD-GL2 homologues, suggesting similarities in the definition of the outer cell layer in seed plants. genesis 30:220–230, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.