Evolution of petaloid sepals independent of shifts in B-class MADS box gene expression

Dev Genes Evol. 2012 Mar;222(1):19-28. doi: 10.1007/s00427-011-0385-1. Epub 2011 Dec 24.


Attractive petals are an integral component of animal-pollinated flowers and in many flowering plant species are restricted to the second floral whorl. Interestingly, multiple times during angiosperm evolution, petaloid characteristics have expanded to adjacent floral whorls or to extra-floral organs. Here, we investigate developmental characteristics of petaloid sepals in Rhodochiton atrosanguineum, a close relative of the model species Antirrhinum majus (snapdragon). We undertook this in two ways, first using scanning electron microscopy we investigate the micromorphology of petals and sepals, followed by expression studies of genes usually responsible for the formation of petaloid structures. From our data, we conclude that R. atrosanguineum petaloid sepals lack micromorphological characteristics of petals and that petaloid sepals did not evolve through regulatory evolution of B-class MADS box genes, which have been shown to specify second whorl petal identity in a number of model flowering plant species including snapdragon. These data, in conjunction with other studies, suggests multiple convergent pathways for the evolution of showy sepals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Antirrhinum / genetics*
  • Antirrhinum / metabolism
  • Antirrhinum / ultrastructure
  • Flowers / metabolism*
  • Flowers / ultrastructure
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • MADS Domain Proteins / metabolism*
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism*
  • Scrophulariaceae / genetics*
  • Scrophulariaceae / metabolism
  • Scrophulariaceae / ultrastructure


  • MADS Domain Proteins
  • Plant Proteins