The myb-homologous p1 gene regulates the synthesis of flavonoid pigments in maize kernel pericarp and cob; these floral organs are greatly modified in size and shape compared with their counterparts in teosinte, the progenitor of maize. To elucidate the molecular evolution of the p1 gene in relation to its expression and possible functions in maize and teosinte, we have isolated a second maize gene (p2) that is highly homologous with the p1 gene, and a related gene (p2-t) from Zea mays subsp parviglumis. We present evidence that the maize p1 and p2 genes were generated by duplication of an ancestral p gene (ppre) and its downstream sequences; the duplicated 3′ flanking sequences were inserted upstream of the ppre gene, thereby changing its transcription pattern. This model accounts for the structural organization and the observed differential expression of the p1 and p2 genes: p1 transcripts accumulate in kernel pericarp, cob, tassel glumes, and silk, whereas p2 transcripts are found in developing anther and silk. The duplication is estimated to have occurred 2.75 million years ago; subsequently, multiple retroelements have been inserted between the p1 and p2 genes. Our results demonstrate the evolution of a single gene into a compound locus containing two component genes with different tissue specificities. Expression of the p1 gene in the kernel pericarp may have provided a selective advantage during the evolution of maize kernel morphology.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Plant Science
- Cell Biology