Functional conservation and diversification of class E floral homeotic genes in rice (Oryza sativa)

Rongfeng Cui, Jiakun Han, Suzhen Zhao, Kunmei Su, Feng Wu, Xiaoqiu Du, Qijiang Xu, Kang Chong, Günter Theissen, Zheng Meng
Plant Journal 2010, 61 (5): 767-81
Mutant analyses in different eudicotyledonous flowering plants demonstrated that SEPALLATA-like MADS-box genes are required for the specification of sepals, petals, stamens and carpels, and for floral determinacy, thus defining class E floral organ identity genes. SEP-like genes encode MADS-domain transcription factors and constitute an angiosperm-specific gene clade whose members show remarkably different degrees of redundancy and sub-functionalization within eudicots. To better understand the evolutionary dynamics of SEP-like genes throughout the angiosperms we have knocked down SEP-like genes of rice (Oryza sativa), a distant relative of eudicots within the flowering plants. Plants affected in both OsMADS7 and OsMADS8 show severe phenotypes including late flowering, homeotic changes of lodicules, stamens and carpels into palea/lemma-like organs, and a loss of floral determinacy. Simultaneous knockdown of the four rice SEP-like genes OsMADS1, OsMADS5, OsMADS7 and OsMADS8, leads to homeotic transformation of all floral organs except the lemma into leaf-like organs. This mimics the phenotype observed with the sep1 sep2 sep3 sep4 quadruple mutant of Arabidopsis. Detailed analyses of the spatial and temporal mRNA expression and protein interaction patterns corresponding to the different rice SEP-like genes show strong similarities, but also gene-specific differences. These findings reveal conservation of SEP-like genes in specifying floral determinacy and organ identities since the separation of eudicots and monocots about 150 million years ago. However, they indicate also monocot-specific neo- and sub-functionalization events and hence underscore the evolutionary dynamics of SEP-like genes. Moreover, our findings corroborate the view that the lodicules of grasses are homologous to eudicot petals.

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