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Keywords:

  • bracts;
  • Davidia involucrate;
  • in situ hybridization;
  • MADS-box genes;
  • petaloidy;
  • qRT-PCR;
  • stamen identity;
  • transference of function

Summary

  • An important evolutionary mechanism shaping the biodiversity of flowering plants is the transfer of function from one plant organ to another. To investigate whether and how transference of function is associated with the remodeling of the floral organ identity program we studied Davidia involucrata, a species with conspicuous, petaloid bracts subtending a contracted inflorescence with reduced flowers.
  • A detailed ontogeny enabled the interpretation of expression patterns of B-, C- and E-class homeotic MADS-box genes using qRT-PCR and in situ hybridization techniques. We investigated protein–protein interactions using yeast two-hybrid assays.
  • Although loss of organs does not appear to have affected organ identity in the retained organs of the reduced flowers of D. involucrata, the bracts express the B-class TM6 (Tomato MADS box gene 6) and GLOBOSA homologs, but not DEFICIENS, and the C-class AGAMOUS homolog, representing a subset of genes also involved in stamen identity.
  • Our results may illustrate how petal identity can be partially transferred outside the flower by expressing a subset of stamen identity genes. This adds to the molecular mechanisms explaining the diversity of plant reproductive morphology.