The petunia AGL6 gene has a SEPALLATA-like function in floral patterning


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SEPALLATA (SEP) MADS-box genes are required for the regulation of floral meristem determinacy and the specification of sepals, petals, stamens, carpels and ovules, specifically in angiosperms. The SEP subfamily is closely related to the AGAMOUS LIKE6 (AGL6) and SQUAMOSA (SQUA) subfamilies. So far, of these three groups only AGL6-like genes have been found in extant gymnosperms. AGL6 genes are more similar to SEP than to SQUA genes, both in sequence and in expression pattern. Despite the ancestry and wide distribution of AGL6-like MADS-box genes, not a single loss-of-function mutant exhibiting a clear phenotype has yet been reported; consequently the function of AGL6-like genes has remained elusive. Here, we characterize the Petunia hybrida AGL6 (PhAGL6, formerly called PETUNIA MADS BOX GENE4/pMADS4) gene, and show that it functions redundantly with the SEP genes FLORAL BINDING PROTEIN2 (FBP2) and FBP5 in petal and anther development. Moreover, expression analysis suggests a function for PhAGL6 in ovary and ovule development. The PhAGL6 and FBP2 proteins interact in in vitro experiments overall with the same partners, indicating that the two proteins are biochemically quite similar. It will be interesting to determine the functions of AGL6-like genes of other species, especially those of gymnosperms.