CYCLOIDEA-like Genes Control Floral Symmetry, Floral Orientation, and Nectar Guide Patterning
Published:15 May2023    Source:The Plant Cell

Actinomorphic flowers usually orient vertically (relative to the horizon) and possess symmetric nectar guides, while zygomorphic flowers often face horizontally and have asymmetric nectar guides, indicating that floral symmetry, floral orientation, and nectar guide patterning are correlated. The origin of floral zygomorphy is dependent on the dorsoventrally asymmetric expression of CYCLOIDEA (CYC)-like genes. However, how horizontal orientation and asymmetric nectar guides are achieved remains poorly understood.

Here we selected Chirita pumila (Gesneriaceae) as a model plant to explore the molecular bases for these traits. By analyzing gene expression patterns, protein–DNA and protein–protein interactions, and encoded protein functions we identified multiple roles and functional divergence of two CYC-like genes, i.e., CpCYC1 and CpCYC2, in controlling floral symmetry, floral orientation, and nectar guide patterning. CpCYC1 positively regulates its own expression, whereas CpCYC2 does not regulate itself. In addition, CpCYC2 up-regulates CpCYC1, while CpCYC1 down-regulates CpCYC2. This asymmetric auto- and cross-regulation mechanism might explain the high expression levels of only one of these genes.
We show that CpCYC1 and CpCYC2 determine asymmetric nectar guide formation, likely by directly repressing the flavonoid synthesis-related gene CpF35H. We further suggest that CYC-like genes play multiple conserved roles in Gesneriaceae. These findings shed light on the repeated origins of zygomorphic flowers in angiosperms.