On the origin of class B floral homeotic genes: functional substitution and dominant inhibition in Arabidopsis by expression of an orthologue from the gymnosperm Gnetum

Plant J. 2002 Aug;31(4):457-75. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-313x.2002.01375.x.


Class B floral homeotic genes are involved in specifying stamen and petal identity in angiosperms (flowering plants). Here we report that gymnosperms, the closest relatives of the angiosperms, contain at least two different clades representing putative orthologues of class B genes, termed GGM2-like and DAL12-like genes. To obtain information about the functional conservation of the class B genes in seed plants, the representative of one of these clades from Gnetum, termed GGM2, was expressed under the control of the CaMV 35S promoter in Arabidopsis wild-type plants and in different class B mutants. In wild-type plants and in a conditional mutant grown at a permissive temperature, gain-of-function phenotypes were obtained in whorls 1 and 4, where class B genes are usually not expressed. In contrast, loss-of-function phenotypes were observed in whorls 2 and 3, where class B genes are expressed. In different class B gene null mutants of Arabidopsis, and in the conditional B mutant grown at the non-permissive temperature, a partial complementation of the mutant phenotype was obtained. In situ hybridization studies and class B gene promoter test fusion experiments demonstrated that the gain-of-function phenotypes are not due to an upregulation of the endogenous B genes from Arabidopsis, and hence probably involve interactions between GGM2 protein homodimers and class B protein target genes other than the Arabidopsis class B genes itself. To our knowledge, this is the first time that partial complementation of a homeotic mutant by an orthologous gene from a distantly related species has been reported. These data suggest that GGM2 has a function in the gymnosperm Gnetum which is related to that of class B floral organ identity genes of angiosperms. That function may be in the specification of male reproductive organ identity, and in distinguishing male from female reproductive organs.

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics*
  • Arabidopsis / growth & development
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics
  • Cycadopsida / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Genes, Dominant / genetics
  • Genes, Homeobox / genetics*
  • Genetic Complementation Test
  • Heterozygote
  • Homozygote
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • MADS Domain Proteins / genetics*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation, Missense
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Stems / cytology
  • Plant Stems / genetics*
  • Plant Stems / growth & development
  • Plants, Genetically Modified
  • Sequence Alignment


  • APETALA 3 protein, Arabidopsis
  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • MADS Domain Proteins
  • PISTILLATA protein, Arabidopsis

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AJ421709