Molecular characterisation of four double-flowered mutants of Silene dioica representing four centuries of variation

E. K. S. Ingle, P. M. Gilmartin

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Records of double-flowered Silene dioica date from the late sixteenth century and four named varieties are grown today, as previously, for their horticultural interest. Although double-flowered mutants have been characterized in several plants, their study in dioecious species is of particular interest due to influences of the homeotic mutation on the different floral whorl configurations in males and females. We have analysed four double-flowered varieties of Silene dioica: Flore Pleno and Rosea Plena date back to the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, Thelma Kay and Firefly were recognized in the latter part of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. We have analysed the floral structure of the four varieties, which have distinct floral architectures. Based on Y chromosome-specific PCR analysis we show that Firefly is male and that the other three varieties are female: Random Amplification of Polymorphic DNA (RAPD) analyses suggested a common origin for the three female varieties. The double-flowered phenotype in all four varieties is caused by mutation of the C-function MADS-box transcription factor gene SDM1. We show that Firefly carries a unique 44bp insertion into SDM1, revealing an independent origin for this variety. Comparative analysis of SDM1 cDNA and genomic sequences in Flore Pleno, Rosea Plena and Thelma Kay shows that all three are caused by the same 7bp insertion within SDM1 and therefore share a common origin. The three alleles also differ by several single nucleotide polymorphisms, which represent somatic mutations accumulated over four centuries of asexual propagation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3297-3307
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Issue number11
Early online date15 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015


  • C-function MADS-box
  • dioecy
  • double-flowered
  • floral homeotic mutation
  • sex determination
  • Silene dioica

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