Comparative and Functional Analysis of a Genetic Pathway Controlling Floral Asymmetry

Lead Research Organisation: John Innes Centre
Department Name: Contracts Office

Abstract

In this proposal we have chosen to analyse the evolution of a key trait in plants - flower asymmetry. Many flowers, such as buttercups, are radially symmetrical, having similar petals all the way round the flower. Other flower species, such as orchids and snapdragons, have asymmetric flowers in which the upper petals are very different from the lower ones. This asymmetric condition is thought to have evolved many times independently in flowering plants from the symmetrical state as a specialized adaptation to pollinators. The best studied case of floral asymmetry is in the snapdragon (Antirrhinum) where four key genes that regulate the process have been isolated and analysed. However, one difficulty with studying these genes further has been the inability to introduce modified versions of the genes into snapdragons. This obstacle has recently been overcome by the development of a new way of rapidly and conveniently introducing genes into snapdragons. The aim of this proposal is to exploit this development to analyse further how genes controlling floral asymmetry work in snapdragons and to compare this to the situation in Arabidopsis, a plant that has radially symmetrical flowers and therefore represents a more ancestral condition. By transferring particular genetic components from one species to the other and seeing how they function, it should be possible to get important insights into how novel characters can be derived through genetic change.

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