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Gene for dissected leaves
Date:2/14/2014

This news release is available in German.

Spinach looks nothing like parsley, and basil bears no resemblance to thyme. Each plant has a typical leaf shape that can differ even within the same family. The information about what shape leaves will be is stored in the DNA. According to researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, the hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) has a particular gene to thank for its dissected leaves. This homeobox gene inhibits cell proliferation and growth between leaflets, allowing them to separate from each other. The thale cress Arabidopsis thaliana does not have this gene. Therefore, its leaves are not dissected, but simple and entire.

Miltos Tsiantis and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne discovered the new gene when comparing two plants from the Brassicaceae family: Cardamine hirsuta has dissected leaves that form leaflets and Arabidopsis thaliana has simple leaves. The researchers identified the RCO (REDUCED COMPLEXITY) gene, which makes leaves of the hairy bittercress more complex. Arabidopsis lacks this gene and, accordingly, lacks leaflets. RCO is only active in growing leaves. RCO ensures that cell proliferation and growth is prevented in areas of the leaf margin between sites of leaflet formation. "The leaves of Arabidopsis are simple and entire because growth is not inhibited by the RCO gene," explains Tsiantis. "If we had not compared the two plants we would never have discovered this difference, as it is impossible to find a gene where none exists," he adds.

The scientists first identified the RCO gene through a mutation in the hairy bittercress. In the absence of functional RCO the hairy
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Contact: Dr. Miltos Tsiantis
tsiantis@mpipz.mpg.de
49-221-506-2106
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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