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Keywords:

  • fruit dehiscence;
  • valve margin;
  • evolutionary developmental biology;
  • character evolution;
  • Brassicaceae;
  • L epidium campestre ;
  • L epidium appelianum

Summary

In the Brassicaceae, indehiscent fruits evolved from dehiscent fruits several times independently. Here we use closely related wild species of the genus Lepidium as a model system to analyse the underlying developmental genetic mechanisms in a candidate gene approach. ALCATRAZ (ALC), INDEHISCENT (IND), SHATTERPROOF1 (SHP1) and SHATTERPROOF2 (SHP2) are known fruit developmental genes of Arabidopsis thaliana that are expressed in the fruit valve margin governing dehiscence zone formation. Comparative expression analysis by quantitative RT-PCR, Northern blot and in situ hybridization show that their orthologues from Lepidium campestre (dehiscent fruits) are similarly expressed at valve margins. In sharp contrast, expression of the respective orthologues is abolished in the corresponding tissue of indehiscent Lepidium appelianum fruits, indicating that changes in the genetic pathway identified in A. thaliana caused the transition from dehiscent to indehiscent fruits in the investigated species. As parallel mutations in different genes are quite unlikely, we conclude that the changes in gene expression patterns are probably caused by changes in upstream regulators of ALC, IND and SHP1/2, possible candidates from A. thaliana being FRUITFULL (FUL), REPLUMLESS (RPL) and APETALA2 (AP2). However, neither expression analyses nor functional tests in transgenic plants provided any evidence that the FUL or RPL orthologues of Lepidium were involved in evolution of fruit indehiscence in Lepidium. In contrast, stronger expression of AP2 in indehiscent compared to dehiscent fruits identifies AP2 as a candidate gene that deserves further investigation.