- Carpel development and evolution are central issues for plant biology. The conservation of genetic functions conferring carpel identity has been widely studied in higher plants. However, although genetic networks directing the development of characteristic features of angiosperm carpels such as stigma and style are increasingly known in Arabidopsis thaliana, little information is available on the conservation and diversification of these networks in other species. Here, we have studied the functional conservation of NGATHA transcription factors in widely divergent species within the eudicots.
- We determined by in situ hybridization the expression patterns of NGATHA orthologs in Eschscholzia californica and Nicotiana benthamiana. Virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS)-mediated inactivation of NGATHA genes in both species was performed and different microscopy techniques were used for phenotypic characterization.
- We found the expression patterns of EcNGA and NbNGA genes during flower development to be highly similar to each other, as well as to those reported for Arabidopsis NGATHA genes. Inactivation of EcNGA and NbNGA also caused severe defects in style and stigma development in both species.
- These results demonstrate the widely conserved essential role of NGATHA genes in style and stigma specification and suggest that the angiosperm-specific NGATHA genes were likely recruited to direct a carpel-specific developmental program.