A novel MADS-box gene subfamily with a sister-group relationship to class B floral homeotic genes

A Becker, K Kaufmann, A Freialdenhoven, C Vincent, M-A Li, H Saedler, G Theissen
Molecular Genetics and Genomics: MGG 2002, 266 (6): 942-50
Class B floral homeotic genes specify the identity of petals and stamens during the development of angiosperm flowers. Recently, putative orthologs of these genes have been identified in different gymnosperms. Together, these genes constitute a clade, termed B genes. Here we report that diverse seed plants also contain members of a hitherto unknown sister clade of the B genes, termed B(sister) (B(s)) genes. We have isolated members of the B(s) clade from the gymnosperm Gnetum gnemon, the monocotyledonous angiosperm Zea mays and the eudicots Arabidopsis thaliana and Antirrhinum majus. In addition, MADS-box genes from the basal angiosperm Asarum europaeum and the eudicot Petunia hybrida were identified as B(s) genes. Comprehensive expression studies revealed that B(s) genes are mainly transcribed in female reproductive organs (ovules and carpel walls). This is in clear contrast to the B genes, which are predominantly expressed in male reproductive organs (and in angiosperm petals). Our data suggest that the B(s) genes played an important role during the evolution of the reproductive structures in seed plants. The establishment of distinct B and B(s) gene lineages after duplication of an ancestral gene may have accompanied the evolution of male microsporophylls and female megasporophylls 400-300 million years ago. During flower evolution, expression of B(s) genes diversified, but the focus of expression remained in female reproductive organs. Our findings imply that a clade of highly conserved close relatives of class B floral homeotic genes has been completely overlooked until recently and awaits further evaluation of its developmental and evolutionary importance. Electronic supplementary material to this paper can be obtained by using the Springer Link server located at

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