The origin and rapid diversification of the angiosperms (Darwin's "Abominable Mystery") has engaged generations of researchers. Here, we examine the floral genetic programs of phylogenetically pivotal angiosperms (water lily, avocado, California poppy, and Arabidopsis) and a nonflowering seed plant (a cycad) to obtain insight into the origin and subsequent evolution of the flower. Transcriptional cascades with broadly overlapping spatial domains, resembling the hypothesized ancestral gymnosperm program, are deployed across morphologically intergrading organs in water lily and avocado flowers. In contrast, spatially discrete transcriptional programs in distinct floral organs characterize the more recently derived angiosperm lineages represented by California poppy and Arabidopsis. Deep evolutionary conservation in the genetic programs of putatively homologous floral organs traces to those operating in gymnosperm reproductive cones. Female gymnosperm cones and angiosperm carpels share conserved genetic features, which may be associated with the ovule developmental program common to both organs. However, male gymnosperm cones share genetic features with both perianth (sterile attractive and protective) organs and stamens, supporting the evolutionary origin of the floral perianth from the male genetic program of seed plants.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Dec 28 2010|
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