Molecular aspects of flower development in grasses

Mario Ciaffi, Anna Rita Paolacci, Oronzo Antonio Tanzarella, Enrico Porceddu
Sexual Plant Reproduction 2011, 24 (4): 247-82
The grass family (Poaceae) of the monocotyledons includes about 10,000 species and represents one of the most important taxa among angiosperms. Their flower morphology is remarkably different from those of other monocotyledons and higher eudicots. The peculiar floral structure of grasses is the floret, which contains carpels and stamens, like eudicots, but lacks petals and sepals. The reproductive organs are surrounded by two lodicules, which correspond to eudicot petals, and by a palea and lemma, whose correspondence to eudicot organs remains controversial. The molecular and genetic analysis of floral morphogenesis and organ specification, primarily performed in eudicot model species, led to the ABCDE model of flower development. Several genes required for floral development in grasses correspond to class A, B, C, D, and E genes of eudicots, but others appear to have unique and diversified functions. In this paper, we outline the present knowledge on the evolution and diversification of grass genes encoding MIKC-type MADS-box transcription factors, based on information derived from studies in rice, maize, and wheat. Moreover, we review recent advances in studying the genes involved in the control of flower development and the extent of structural and functional conservation of these genes between grasses and eudicots.

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