Navigation Links
Genetic mutation depicted in van Gogh's sunflower paintings revealed by scientists

In addition to being among his most vibrant and celebrated works, Vincent van Gogh's series of sunflower paintings also depict a mutation whose genetic basis has, until now, been a mystery. In a study published in PLoS Genetics, a team of University of Georgia scientists reveal the mutation behind the distinctive, thick bands of yellow "double flowers" that the post-Impressionist artist painted more than 100 years ago.

The most common sunflower trait is a composite flower head that contains a single whorl of large, flattened, yellow ray florets on the outer perimeter and hundreds to over a thousand individual, tubular, disc florets that can produce seeds. The double-flowered mutants that van Gogh depicted in many of his paintings, on the other hand, have multiple bands of yellow florets and a much smaller proportion of internal disc florets.

To understand the genetic basis of this difference, senior author John Burke, professor of plant biology in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, and his colleagues began by using the same plant crossing techniques that Gregor Mendel, a 19th century contemporary of van Gogh, used to lay the foundation of modern genetics. The scientists crossed the common, or "wild type", variety of sunflower with the double-flowered variety, and their initial findings suggested that a single, dominant gene was responsible for creating the double-flowered mutation. Subsequent crosses of the offspring revealed that a second mutation, which is recessive to both the double-flowered mutation and the wild-type version of the gene, results in a third flower type that is intermediate in form, being elongated and yellow, but tubular and containing the reproductive structures of the interior florets.

The scientists identified the responsible gene and sequenced it to show that in the double-flowered mutation, the portion of the gene that functions as an on/off switch is disrupted, so that the instructions for making the outer rays are turned on in the portions of the plant that would normally produce the internal disc florets. In the second mutation, which results in the tubular florets, the insertion of a "jumping gene" disrupts the ability of the plant to produce normal ray florets. As a result, tubular florets are produced in place of the normal ray florets.

Finally, the scientists screened hundreds of sunflower varietieswild type, double-flowered and tubularand found that wild-type sunflower varieties never have a mutation in the HaCYC2c gene, while the double-flowered varieties always have the same mutation in the on/off switch. In addition, the tubular varieties always have a disrupted copy of the gene. "All of this evidence tells us that the mutation we've identified is the same one that van Gogh captured in the 1800s," Burke said.

"In addition to being of interest from a historical perspective, this finding gives us insight into the molecular basis of an economically important trait," he added. "You often see ornamental varieties similar to the ones van Gogh painted growing in people's gardens or used for cut flowers, and there is a major market for them."

Contact: Sam Fahmy
Public Library of Science

Related biology news :

1. Rare genetic disorder gives clues to autism, epilepsy, mental retardation
2. Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News reports on growing role of molecular diagnostics
3. Study finds genetic variant plays role in cleft lip
4. Genetic finding implicates innate immune system in major cause of blindness
5. American College of Medical Genetics receives $13.5M NIH contract
6. Clue to genetic cause of fatal birth defect
7. Can genetic information be controlled by light?
8. The American Society of Human Genetics hosts 58th Annual Meeting in Philadelphia
9. Modern genetics vs. ancient frog-killing fungus
10. Genetic based human diseases are an ancient evolutionary legacy
11. Genetic evidence for avian influenza movement from Asia to North America via wild birds
Post Your Comments:
(Date:5/16/2016)... --  EyeLock LLC , a market leader of iris-based ... IoT Center of Excellence in Austin, Texas ... embedded iris biometric applications. EyeLock,s iris authentication ... with unmatched biometric accuracy, making it the most proven ... platform uses video technology to deliver a fast and ...
(Date:5/9/2016)... Elevay is currently known as ... for high net worth professionals seeking travel for work ... world, there is still no substitute for a face-to-face ... your deal with a firm handshake. This is why ... of citizenship via investment programs like those offered by ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... India , April 28, 2016 ... Infosys (NYSE: INFY ), and Samsung SDS, a ... that will provide end customers with a more secure, ... services.      (Logo: ) , ... services, but it also plays a fundamental part in enabling ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)...  The Biodesign Challenge (BDC), a university competition that ... living systems and biotechnology, announced its winning teams at ... New York City . The teams, ... at MoMA,s Celeste Bartos Theater during the daylong summit. ... curator of architecture and design, and Suzanne Lee ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... ... STACS DNA Inc., the sample tracking software company, today announced that Dr. Hays ... DNA as a Field Application Specialist. , “I am thrilled that Dr. Young ... DNA. “In further expanding our capacity as a scientific integrator, Hays brings a wealth ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 23, 2016  Blueprint Bio, a company dedicated to ... medical community, has closed its Series A funding round, ... "We have received a commitment from Forentis ... need to meet our current goals," stated Matthew ... runway to complete validation on the current projects in ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... ClinCapture, the only free validated ... will showcase its product’s latest features from June 26 to June 30, 2016 ... on Disrupting Clinical Trials in The Cloud during the conference. DIA (Drug ...
Breaking Biology Technology: