Characterization of three GLOBOSA-like MADS-box genes from maize: evidence for ancient paralogy in one class of floral homeotic B-function genes of grasses

T Münster, L U Wingen, W Faigl, S Werth, H Saedler, G Theissen
Gene 2001 January 10, 262 (1): 1-13
Floral homeotic B-function genes are involved in specifying the identity of petals and stamens during flower development in higher eudicotyledonous plants. Monocotyledonous plants belonging to the grass family (Poaceae) have very similar B-function genes, except that these genes specify lodicules rather than petals. All B-function genes known so far are members of the MADS-box gene family encoding transcription factors. In some eudicot model systems such as Arabidopsis and Antirrhinum, the B-function is provided by heterodimeric protein complexes encoded by one DEF- and one GLO-like gene. In several different lineages of flowering plant species, however, more than one DEF- or GLO-like gene is found. A known example is the monocot model system rice, which contains two GLO-like genes, termed OSMADS2 and OSMADS4. Duplications of floral homeotic genes may have played a critical role in the diversification of floral homeotic functions and thus the evolution of flowers. In order to date the gene duplication event that gave rise to these two genes, we cloned cDNAs of three different GLO-like genes from maize, a distant relative of rice within the Poaceae family. Phylogeny reconstructions and chromosomal mapping indicate that one of these genes, named ZMM16, is orthologous to OSMADS2, and that the other two, ZMM18 and ZMM29, are probably orthologous to OSMADS4. The gene duplication which gave rise to OSMADS2- and OSMADS4-like genes occurred probably after the split of the lineages that resulted in extant Liliaceae and Poaceae, but before the separation of the lineages that gave rise to extant maize and rice about 50 MYA. Northern and in situ hybridization studies demonstrated that the maize genes are expressed in lodicules, stamens and carpels throughout spikelet development in male and female inflorescences. The GLO-like genes from rice have very similar patterns of mRNA accumulation. In addition, ZMM16 shows also weak expression in vegetative organs. Conservation of the expression in lodicules and stamens is in perfect agreement with a floral homeotic B-function of the GLO-like genes in grasses. The conserved expression in carpels is discussed. Moreover, circumstantial evidence for a functional diversification of GLO-like genes in grasses is provided.

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