Conservation and divergence of APETALA1/FRUITFULL-like gene function in grasses: evidence from gene expression analyses


(fax +1 314 516 6233; e-mail


Duplicated APETALA1/FRUITFULL (AP1/FUL) genes show distinct but overlapping patterns of expression within rice (Oryza sativa) and within ryegrass (Lolium temulentum), suggesting discrete functional roles in the transition to flowering, specification of spikelet meristem identity, and specification of floral organ identity. In this study, we analyzed the expression of the AP1/FUL paralogues FUL1 and FUL2 across phylogenetically disparate grasses to test hypotheses of gene function. In combination with other studies, our data support similar roles for both genes in spikelet meristem identity, a general role for FUL1 in floral organ identity, and a more specific role for FUL2 in outer floral whorl identity. In contrast to Arabidopsis AP1/FUL genes, expression of FUL1 and FUL2 is consistent with an early role in the transition to flowering. In general, FUL1 has a wider expression pattern in all spikelet organs than FUL2, but both genes are expressed in all spikelet organs in some cereals. FUL1 and FUL2 appear to have multiple redundant functions in early inflorescence development. We hypothesize that sub-functionalization of FUL2 and interaction of FUL2 with LHS1 could specify lemma and palea identity in the grass floret.