The Phalaenopsis orchid produces complex flowers that are commercially valuable, which has promoted the study of its flower development. E-class MADS-box genes, SEPALLATA (SEP), combined with B-, C- and D-class MADS-box genes, are involved in various aspects of plant development, such as floral meristem determination, organ identity, fruit maturation, seed formation and plant architecture. Four SEP-like genes were cloned from Phalaenopsis orchid, and the duplicated PeSEPs were grouped into PeSEP1/3 and PeSEP2/4. All PeSEPs were expressed in all floral organs. PeSEP2 expression was detectable in vegetative tissues. The study of protein-protein interactions suggested that PeSEPs may form higher order complexes with the B-, C-, D-class and AGAMOUS LIKE6-related MADS-box proteins to determine floral organ identity. The tepal became a leaf-like organ when PeSEP3 was silenced by virus-induced silencing, with alterations in epidermis identity and contents of anthocyanin and chlorophyll. Silencing of PeSEP2 had minor effects on the floral phenotype. Silencing of the E-class genes PeSEP2 and PeSEP3 resulted in the downregulation of B-class PeMADS2-6 genes, which indicates an association of PeSEP functions and B-class gene expression. These findings reveal the important roles of PeSEP in Phalaenopsis floral organ formation throughout the developmental process by the formation of various multiple protein complexes.
Keywords: Phalaenopsis; SEPALLATA; complex formation; divergence; flower development; orchid.
© 2014 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2014 New Phytologist Trust.