Identification and characterization of flowering genes in kiwifruit: sequence conservation and role in kiwifruit flower development

Erika Varkonyi-Gasic, Sarah M Moss, Charlotte Voogd, Rongmei Wu, Robyn H Lough, Yen-Yi Wang, Roger P Hellens
BMC Plant Biology 2011, 11: 72

BACKGROUND: Flower development in kiwifruit (Actinidia spp.) is initiated in the first growing season, when undifferentiated primordia are established in latent shoot buds. These primordia can differentiate into flowers in the second growing season, after the winter dormancy period and upon accumulation of adequate winter chilling. Kiwifruit is an important horticultural crop, yet little is known about the molecular regulation of flower development.

RESULTS: To study kiwifruit flower development, nine MADS-box genes were identified and functionally characterized. Protein sequence alignment, phenotypes obtained upon overexpression in Arabidopsis and expression patterns suggest that the identified genes are required for floral meristem and floral organ specification. Their role during budbreak and flower development was studied. A spontaneous kiwifruit mutant was utilized to correlate the extended expression domains of these flowering genes with abnormal floral development.

CONCLUSIONS: This study provides a description of flower development in kiwifruit at the molecular level. It has identified markers for flower development, and candidates for manipulation of kiwifruit growth, phase change and time of flowering. The expression in normal and aberrant flowers provided a model for kiwifruit flower development.

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