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1.  Large scale interaction analysis predicts that the Gerbera hybrida floral E function is provided both by general and specialized proteins 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:129.
The ornamental plant Gerbera hybrida bears complex inflorescences with morphologically distinct floral morphs that are specific to the sunflower family Asteraceae. We have previously characterized several MADS box genes that regulate floral development in Gerbera. To study further their behavior in higher order complex formation according to the quartet model, we performed yeast two- and three-hybrid analysis with fourteen Gerbera MADS domain proteins to analyze their protein-protein interaction potential.
The exhaustive pairwise interaction analysis showed significant differences in the interaction capacity of different Gerbera MADS domain proteins compared to other model plants. Of particular interest in these assays was the behavior of SEP-like proteins, known as GRCDs in Gerbera. The previously described GRCD1 and GRCD2 proteins, which are specific regulators involved in stamen and carpel development, respectively, showed very limited pairwise interactions, whereas the related GRCD4 and GRCD5 factors displayed hub-like positions in the interaction map. We propose GRCD4 and GRCD5 to provide a redundant and general E function in Gerbera, comparable to the SEP proteins in Arabidopsis. Based on the pairwise interaction data, combinations of MADS domain proteins were further subjected to yeast three-hybrid assays. Gerbera B function proteins showed active behavior in ternary complexes. All Gerbera SEP-like proteins with the exception of GRCD1 were excellent partners for B function proteins, further implicating the unique role of GRCD1 as a whorl- and flower-type specific C function partner.
Gerbera MADS domain proteins exhibit both conserved and derived behavior in higher order protein complex formation. This protein-protein interaction data can be used to classify and compare Gerbera MADS domain proteins to those of Arabidopsis and Petunia. Combined with our reverse genetic studies of Gerbera, these results reinforce the roles of different genes in the floral development of Gerbera. Building up the elaborate capitulum of Gerbera calls for modifications and added complexity in MADS domain protein behavior compared to the more simple flowers of, e.g., Arabidopsis.
PMCID: PMC3017775  PMID: 20579338
2.  Characterization of SQUAMOSA-like genes in Gerbera hybrida, including one involved in reproductive transition 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:128.
The flowering process in plants proceeds through the induction of an inflorescence meristem triggered by several pathways. Many of the genes associated with both the flowering process and floral architecture encode transcription factors of the MADS domain family. Gerbera, a member of the sunflower family, Asteraceae, bears compressed inflorescence heads (capitula) with three different flower types characterized by differences in both sexuality and floral symmetry. To understand how such a complex inflorescence structure is achieved at the molecular level, we have characterized the array of Gerbera MADS box genes. The high number of SQUAMOSA-like genes in Gerbera compared to other model species raised the question as to whether they may relate to Gerbera's complex inflorescence structure and whether or not a homeotic A function is present.
In this paper we describe six Gerbera genes related to the SQUAMOSA/APETALA1/FRUITFULL genes of snapdragon and Arabidopsis. Based on phylogenetic analysis of the entire gene lineage, our data indicates that GSQUA1 and GSQUA3 are members of the SQUA/AP1 clade, while GSQUA2, GSQUA4, GSQUA5 and GSQUA6 are co-orthologs of the Arabidopsis FUL gene. GSQUA1/GSQUA3 and GSQUA4/GSQUA5/GSQUA6, respectively, represent several gene duplication events unknown in the model systems that may be specific to either Gerbera or Asteraceae. GSQUA genes showed specific expression profiles. GSQUA1, GSQUA2, and GSQUA5 were inflorescence abundant, while GSQUA3, GSQUA4, and GSQUA6 expression was also detected in vegetative organs. Overexpression of GSQUA2 in Gerbera led to accelerated flowering, dwarfism and vegetative abnormalities, all new and specific phenomena observed in transgenic Gerbera plants with modified MADS box gene expression.
Based on expression patterns, none of the Gerbera SQUA-like genes are likely to control flower organ identity in the sense of the floral A function. However, our data shows that the FUL-like gene GSQUA2 plays a vital role in meristem transition. The roles of other GSQUA-genes in Gerbera floral development are intriguing, but require still further study.
PMCID: PMC3017819  PMID: 20579337
3.  Identification of flowering genes in strawberry, a perennial SD plant 
BMC Plant Biology  2009;9:122.
We are studying the regulation of flowering in perennial plants by using diploid wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca L.) as a model. Wild strawberry is a facultative short-day plant with an obligatory short-day requirement at temperatures above 15°C. At lower temperatures, however, flowering induction occurs irrespective of photoperiod. In addition to short-day genotypes, everbearing forms of wild strawberry are known. In 'Baron Solemacher' recessive alleles of an unknown repressor, SEASONAL FLOWERING LOCUS (SFL), are responsible for continuous flowering habit. Although flower induction has a central effect on the cropping potential, the molecular control of flowering in strawberries has not been studied and the genetic flowering pathways are still poorly understood. The comparison of everbearing and short-day genotypes of wild strawberry could facilitate our understanding of fundamental molecular mechanisms regulating perennial growth cycle in plants.
We have searched homologs for 118 Arabidopsis flowering time genes from Fragaria by EST sequencing and bioinformatics analysis and identified 66 gene homologs that by sequence similarity, putatively correspond to genes of all known genetic flowering pathways. The expression analysis of 25 selected genes representing various flowering pathways did not reveal large differences between the everbearing and the short-day genotypes. However, putative floral identity and floral integrator genes AP1 and LFY were co-regulated during early floral development. AP1 mRNA was specifically accumulating in the shoot apices of the everbearing genotype, indicating its usability as a marker for floral initiation. Moreover, we showed that flowering induction in everbearing 'Baron Solemacher' and 'Hawaii-4' was inhibited by short-day and low temperature, in contrast to short-day genotypes.
We have shown that many central genetic components of the flowering pathways in Arabidopsis can be identified from strawberry. However, novel regulatory mechanisms exist, like SFL that functions as a switch between short-day/low temperature and long-day/high temperature flowering responses between the short-day genotype and the everbearing 'Baron Solemacher'. The identification of putative flowering gene homologs and AP1 as potential marker gene for floral initiation will strongly facilitate the exploration of strawberry flowering pathways.
PMCID: PMC2761920  PMID: 19785732
4.  Gibberellin mediates daylength-controlled differentiation of vegetative meristems in strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa Duch) 
BMC Plant Biology  2009;9:18.
Differentiation of long and short shoots is an important developmental trait in several species of the Rosaceae family. However, the physiological mechanisms controlling this differentiation are largely unknown. We have studied the role of gibberellin (GA) in regulation of shoot differentiation in strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa Duch.) cv. Korona. In strawberry, differentiation of axillary buds to runners (long shoot) or to crown branches (short shoot) is promoted by long-day and short-day conditions, respectively. Formation of crown branches is a prerequisite for satisfactory flowering because inflorescences are formed from the apical meristems of the crown.
We found that both prohexadione-calcium and short photoperiod inhibited runner initiation and consequently led to induction of crown branching. In both cases, this correlated with a similar decline in GA1 level. Exogenous GA3 completely reversed the effect of prohexadione-calcium in a long photoperiod, but was only marginally effective in short-day grown plants. However, transfer of GA3-treated plants from short days to long days restored the normal runner formation. This did not occur in plants that were not treated with GA3. We also studied GA signalling homeostasis and found that the expression levels of several GA biosynthetic, signalling and target genes were similarly affected by prohexadione-calcium and short photoperiod in runner tips and axillary buds, respectively.
GA is needed for runner initiation in strawberry, and the inhibition of GA biosynthesis leads to the formation of crown branches. Our findings of similar changes in GA levels and in GA signalling homeostasis after prohexadione-calcium and short-day treatments, and photoperiod-dependent responsiveness of the axillary buds to GA indicate that GA plays a role also in the photoperiod-regulated differentiation of axillary buds. We propose that tightly regulated GA activity may control induction of cell division in subapical tissues of axillary buds, being one of the signals determining bud fate.
PMCID: PMC2653492  PMID: 19210764
5.  Patterns of MADS-box gene expression mark flower-type development in Gerbera hybrida (Asteraceae) 
BMC Plant Biology  2006;6:11.
The inflorescence of the cut-flower crop Gerbera hybrida (Asteraceae) consists of two principal flower types, ray and disc, which form a tightly packed head, or capitulum. Despite great interest in plant morphological evolution and the tractability of the gerbera system, very little is known regarding genetic mechanisms involved in flower type specification. Here, we provide comparative staging of ray and disc flower development and microarray screening for differentially expressed genes, accomplished via microdissection of hundreds of coordinately developing flower primordia.
Using a 9K gerbera cDNA microarray we identified a number of genes with putative specificity to individual flower types. Intrestingly, several of these encode homologs of MADS-box transcription factors otherwise known to regulate flower organ development. From these and previously obtained data, we hypothesize the functions and protein-protein interactions of several gerbera MADS-box factors.
Our RNA expression results suggest that flower-type specific MADS protein complexes may play a central role in differential development of ray and disc flowers across the gerbera capitulum, and that some commonality is shared with known protein functions in floral organ determination. These findings support the intriguing conjecture that the gerbera flowering head is more than a mere floral analog at the level of gene regulation.
PMCID: PMC1525168  PMID: 16762082

Results 1-5 (5)