• Hardened floral bracts and modifications to the inflorescence axis of grasses have been hypothesized to protect seeds from predation and/or aid seed dispersal, and have evolved multiple times independently within the family. Previous studies have demonstrated that mutations in the maize (Zea mays ssp. mays) gene teosinte glume architecture (tga1) underlie a reduction in hardened structures, yielding free fruits that are easy to harvest. It remains unclear whether the causative mutation(s) occurred in the cis-regulatory or protein-coding regions of tga1, and whether similar mutations in TGA1-like genes can explain variation in the dispersal unit in related grasses. • To address these questions TGA1-like genes were cloned and sequenced from a number of grasses and analyzed phylogenetically in relation to morphology; protein expression was investigated by immunolocalization. • TGA1-like proteins were expressed throughout the spikelet in the early development of all grasses, and throughout the flower of the grass relative Joinvillea. Later in development, expression patterns differed between Tripsacum dactyloides, maize and teosinte (Z. mays ssp. parviglumis). • These results suggest an ancestral role for TGA1-like genes in early spikelet development, but do not support the hypothesis that TGA1-like genes have been repeatedly modified to affect glume and inflorescence axis diversification.
© 2011 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2011 New Phytologist Trust.