MADS-box genes are involved in floral development and evolution.
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MADS-box genes encode transcription factors in all eukaryotic organisms thus far studied. Plant MADS-box proteins contain a DNA-binding (M), an intervening (I), a Keratin-like (K) and a C-terminal C-domain, thus plant MADS-box proteins are of the MIKC type. In higher plants most of the well-characterized genes are involved in floral development. They control the transition from vegetative to generative growth and determine inflorescence meristem identity. They specify floral organ identity as outlined in the ABC model of floral development. Moreover, in Antirrhinum majus the MADS-box gene products DEF/GLO and PLE control cell proliferation in the developing flower bud. In this species the DEF/GLO and the SQUA proteins form a ternary complex which determines the overall "Bauplan" of the flower. Phylogenetic reconstructions of MADS-box sequences obtained from ferns, gymnosperms and higher eudicots reveal that, although ferns possess already MIKC type genes, these are not orthologous to the well characterized MADS-box genes from gymnosperms or angiosperms. Putative orthologs of floral homeotic B- and C-function genes have been identified in different gymnosperms suggesting that these genes evolved some 300-400 million years ago. Both gymnosperms and angiosperms also contain a hitherto unknown sister clade of the B-genes, which we termed Bsister. A novel hypothesis will be described suggesting that B and Bsister might be involved in sex determination of male and female reproductive organs, respectively.
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