Identification of developmentally important genes in Silene latifolia through chemical genetics and transcriptome profiling
Dioecious plants possess diverse sex determination systems and unique mechanisms of reproductive organ development; however, little is known about how sex-linked genes shape the expression of regulatory cascades that lead to developmental differences between sexes. In Silene latifolia, a dioecious plant with stable dimorphism in floral traits, early experiments suggested that female-regulator genes act on the factors that determine the boundaries of the flower whorls. To identify these regulators, we sequenced the transcriptome of male flowers with fully developed gynoecia induced by rapid demethylation in the parental generation. As the hermaphrodite flower trait is holandric (transmitted only from male to male, inherited on the Y chromosome), we screened for genes that are differentially expressed between male, female, and hermaphrodite flowers. Dozens of candidate genes that are upregulated in hermaphrodite flowers compared to male and female flowers were detected and found to have putative roles in floral organization, affecting the expression of floral MADS-box and other genes. Amongst these genes, eight candidates were found to promote gynoecium formation in female and hermaphrodite flowers, affecting organ size, whorl boundary, and the expression of mainly B class flower genes. To complement our transcriptome analysis, we closely examined the floral organs in their native state using a field emission environmental scanning electron microscope. Our results reveal the principal regulatory pathways involved in sex-specific flower development in the classical model of dioecy, S. latifolia.
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