Conifer reproductive development involves B-type MADS-box genes with distinct and different activities in male organ primordia

Authors

  • Jens Sundström,

    1. Evolutionary Biology Center, Physiological Botany, Uppsala University Villavägen 6, S-752 36 Uppsala, Sweden, and
    2. Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology (MCBD), Yale University, 219 Prospect St, PO Box 208103, New Haven, CT 065208103, USA
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  • Peter Engström

    Corresponding author
    1. Evolutionary Biology Center, Physiological Botany, Uppsala University Villavägen 6, S-752 36 Uppsala, Sweden, and
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* For correspondence (fax +46 18 55 98 85; e-mail peter.engstrom@ebc.uu.se).

Summary

The Norway spruce MADS-box genes DAL11, DAL12 and DAL13 are phylogenetically related to the angiosperm B-function MADS-box genes: genes that act together with A-function genes in specifying petal identity and with C-function genes in specifying stamen identity to floral organs. In this report we present evidence to suggest that the B-gene function in the specification of identity of the pollen-bearing organs has been conserved between conifers and angiosperms. Expression of DAL11 or DAL12 in transgenic Arabidopsis causes phenotypic changes which partly resemble those caused by ectopic expression of the endogenous B-genes. In similar experiments, flowers of Arabidopsis plants expressing DAL13 showed a different homeotic change in that they formed ectopic anthers in whorls one, two or four. We also demonstrate the capacity of the spruce gene products to form homodimers, and that DAL11 and DAL13 may form heterodimers with each other and with the Arabidopsis B-protein AP3, but not with PI, the second B-gene product in Arabidopsis. In situ hybridization experiments show that the conifer B-like genes are expressed specifically in developing pollen cones, but differ in both temporal and spatial distribution patterns. These results suggest that the B-function in conifers is dual and is separated into a meristem identity and an organ identity function, the latter function possibly being independent of an interaction with the C-function. Thus, even though an ancestral B-function may have acted in combination with C to specify micro- and megasporangia, the B-function has evolved differently in conifers and angiosperms.

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