A TCP domain transcription factor controls flower type specification along the radial axis of the Gerbera (Asteraceae) inflorescence

Suvi K Broholm, Sari Tähtiharju, Roosa A E Laitinen, Victor A Albert, Teemu H Teeri, Paula Elomaa
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2008 July 1, 105 (26): 9117-22
Several key processes in plant development are regulated by TCP transcription factors. CYCLOIDEA-like (CYC-like) TCP domain proteins have been shown to control flower symmetry in distantly related plant lineages. Gerbera hybrida, a member of one of the largest clades of angiosperms, the sunflower family (Asteraceae), is an interesting model for developmental studies because its elaborate inflorescence comprises different types of flowers that have specialized structures and functions. The morphological differentiation of flower types involves gradual changes in flower size and symmetry that follow the radial organization of the densely packed inflorescence. Differences in the degree of petal fusion further define the distinct shapes of the Gerbera flower types. To study the role of TCP transcription factors during specification of this complex inflorescence organization, we characterized the CYC-like homolog GhCYC2 from Gerbera. The expression of GhCYC2 follows a gradient along the radial axis of the inflorescence. GhCYC2 is expressed in the marginal, bilaterally symmetrical ray flowers but not in the centermost disk flowers, which are nearly radially symmetrical and have significantly less fused petals. Overexpression of GhCYC2 causes disk flowers to obtain morphologies similar to ray flowers. Both expression patterns and transgenic phenotypes suggest that GhCYC2 is involved in differentiation among Gerbera flower types, providing the first molecular evidence that CYC-like TCP factors take part in defining the complex inflorescence structure of the Asteraceae, a major determinant of the family's evolutionary success.

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