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Sub-functionalization to ovule development following duplication of a floral organ identity gene

TitleSub-functionalization to ovule development following duplication of a floral organ identity gene
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsGalimba KD, Di Stilio VS
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Start Page158
Date Published2015
KeywordsABC model, Gene Duplication, flower development, functional divergence, MADS box genes, non-core eudicot

<p>Gene duplications result in paralogs that may be maintained due to the gain of novel functions (neo-functionalization) or the partitioning of ancestral function (sub-functionalization). Plant genomes are especially prone to duplication; paralogs are particularly widespread in the floral MADS box transcription factors that control organ identity through the ABC model of flower development. C class genes establish stamen and carpel identity and control floral meristem determinacy, and are largely conserved across the angiosperm phylogeny. An additional D class had been identified as controlling ovule identity; yet subsequent studies indicated that both C and D lineage genes more commonly control ovule development redundantly. The ranunculid Thalictrum thalictroides has two orthologs of the Arabidopsis thaliana C class gene AGAMOUS (AG), ThtAG1 and ThtAG2 (Thalictrum thalictroides AGAMOUS1/2). We previously showed that ThtAG1 exhibits typical C class function; here we examine the role of its paralog, ThtAG2. Our phylogenetic analysis shows that ThtAG2 falls within the C lineage, together with ThtAG1, and is consistent with previous findings of a Ranunculales-specific duplication in this clade. However, ThtAG2 is not expressed in stamens, but rather solely in carpels and ovules. This female specific expression pattern is consistent with D lineage genes, and with other C lineage genes known to be involved in ovule identity. Given the divergent expression of ThtAG2, we tested the hypothesis that it has acquired ovule identity function. Molecular evolution analysis showed evidence of positive selection on ThtAG2 - a pattern that supports divergence of function by sub-functionalization. Down-regulation of ThtAG2 by virus-induced gene silencing resulted in homeotic conversions of ovules into carpel-like structures. Taken together, our results suggest that, although ThtAG2 falls within the C lineage, it has diverged to acquire &ldquo;D function&rdquo; as an ovule identity gene, and does not appear to require a direct interaction with the ThtAG1 protein. We therefore present a functional example of ovule identity being specified by either a single gene or a gene pair within the C lineage, with no D lineage contribution. Following a Ranunculales-wide duplication in the AG lineage, functional divergence has led to the evolution of ovule identity-specificity in a T. thalictroides C lineage gene.</p>

Refereed DesignationRefereed