Floral homeotic genes were recruited from homologous MADS-box genes preexisting in the common ancestor of ferns and seed plants

Thomas Münster, Jens Pahnke, Alexandra Di Rosa, Jan T. Kim, William Martin, Heinz Saedler, Günter Theissen

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215 Citations (Scopus)


Flowers sensu lato are short, specialized axes bearing closely aggregated sporophylls. They are typical for seed plants (spermatophytes) and are prominent in flowering plants sensu stricto (angiosperms), where they often comprise an attractive perianth. There is evidence that spermatophytes evolved from gymnosperm-like plants with a fern-like mode of reproduction called progymnosperms. It seems plausible, therefore, that the stamens/carpels and pollen sacs/nucelli of spermatophytes are homologous to fern sporophylls and sporangia, respectively. However, the exact mode and molecular basis of early seed and flower evolution is not yet known. Comparing flower developmental control genes to their homologs from lower plants that do not flower may help to clarify the issue. We have isolated and characterized MADS-box genes expressed in gametophytes and sporophytes of the fern Ceratopteris. The data indicate that at least two different MADS-box genes homologous to floral homeotic genes existed in the last common ancestor of contemporary vascular plants, some descendants of which underwent multiple duplications and diversifications and were recruited into novel developmental networks during the evolution of floral organs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2415-2420
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS)
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1997

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