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Keywords:

  • MADS-box;
  • evolution of development;
  • floral development;
  • Caryophyllales;
  • Aizoaceae;
  • petal

Summary

Petals, defined as the showy laminar floral organs in the second floral whorl, have been shown to be under similar genetic control in distantly related core eudicot model organisms. On the basis of these findings, it is commonly assumed that the petal identity program regulated by B-class MADS-box gene homologs is invariant across the core eudicot clade. However, the core eudicots, which comprise >70% of angiosperm species, exhibit numerous instances of petal and sepal loss, transference of petal function between floral whorls, and recurrent petal evolution. In the face of these complex patterns of perianth evolution, the concept of a core eudicot petal identity program has not been tested. We therefore examined the petal identity program in the Caryophyllales, a core eudicot clade in which perianth differentiation into sepals and petals has evolved multiple times. Specifically, we analyzed the expression patterns of B- and C-class MADS-box homologs for evidence of a conserved petal identity program between sepal-derived and stamen-derived petaloid organs in the ‘living stone’ family Aizoaceae. We found that neither sepal-derived nor stamen-derived petaloid organs exhibit gene expression patterns consistent with the core eudicot petal identity program. B-class gene homologs are not expressed during the development of sepal-derived petals and are not implicated in petal identity in stamen-derived petals, as their transient expression coincides with early expression of the C-class homolog. We therefore provide evidence for petal development that is independent of B-class genes and suggest that different genetic control of petal identity has evolved within this lineage of core eudicots. These findings call for a more comprehensive understanding of perianth variation and its genetic causes within the core eudicots – an endeavor that will have broader implications for the interpretation of perianth evolution across angiosperms.