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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

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