Background: Arabidopsis thaliana, a member of the Brassicaceae family is the dominant genetic model plant. However, while the flowers within the Brassicaceae members are rather uniform, mainly radially symmetrical, mostly white with fixed organ numbers, species within the Cleomaceae, the sister family to the Brassicaceae show a more variable floral morphology. We were interested in understanding the molecular basis for these morphological differences. To this end, the floral transcriptome of a hybrid Tarenaya hassleriana, a Cleomaceae with monosymmetric, bright purple flowers was sequenced, annotated and analyzed in respect to floral regulators.
Results: We obtained a comprehensive floral transcriptome with high depth and coverage close to saturation analyzed using rarefaction analysis a method well known in biodiversity studies. Gene expression was analyzed by calculating reads per kilobase gene model per million reads (RPKM) and for selected genes in silico expression data was corroborated by qRT-PCR analysis. Candidate transcription factors were identified based on differences in expression pattern between A. thaliana and T. hassleriana, which are likely key regulators of the T. hassleriana specific floral characters such as coloration and male sterility in the hybrid plant used. Analysis of lineage specific genes was carried out with members of the fabids and malvids.
Conclusions: The floral transcriptome of T. hassleriana provides insights into key pathways involved in the regulation of late anthocyanin biosynthesis, male fertility, flowering time and organ growth regulation which are unique traits compared the model organism A. thaliana. Analysis of lineage specific genes carried out with members of the fabids and malvids suggests an extensive gene birth rate in the lineage leading to core Brassicales while only few genes were potentially lost during core Brassicales evolution, which possibly reflects the result of the At-β whole genome duplication. Our analysis should facilitate further analyses into the molecular mechanisms of floral morphogenesis and pigmentation and the mechanisms underlying the rather diverse floral morphologies in the Cleomaceae.