Specification of floral organ identity in angiosperm flowers is accomplished by the coordinated activity of A-, B-, C-, and E-class MADS-box genes. In the eudicots, B-class genes specify petal and stamen identity. This eudicot B-class function depends on the simultaneous expression of genes from two paralogous B-class lineages (the DEFICIENS/APETALA3 lineage and the GLOBOSA/PISTILLATA lineage). Proteins produced by genes from these two lineages interact as obligate heterodimers and together regulate the transcription of various downstream targets. These obligate heterodimers also positively regulate the transcription of the B-class genes themselves, thereby mediating a unique B-class autoregulatory feedback loop. There is compelling evidence that B-class function at the phenotypic and molecular level is highly conserved among the eudicots. The degree to which B-class homeotic function, obligate heterodimerization, and autoregulation are conserved in non-eudicot, however, remains a topic of debate. Here we describe loss of function in Sterile tassel silky ear1 (Sts1) a maize ortholog of GLOBOSA/PISTILLATA formerly known as Zmm16. Mutation in Sts1 results in homeotic transformation of lodicules and stamens into bract-like organs in male inflorescences. Female inflorescences are affected in a similar manner. Stamens in these inflorescences are, however, transformed into carpels instead of into bract-like organs. This mutant phenotype suggests that Sts1 has a B-class homeotic function. Using qRT-PCR we also demonstrate that Sts1 participates in positive transcriptional regulation of all of the maize B-class genes. These findings suggest a high degree of B-class functional conservation between the monocots and the eudicots. Analysis of tasselseed1/sts1 and grassy tillers1/sts1 double mutants suggests that maize B-class genes also play a role in the sex determination process.



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Life Sciences; Biology



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Zea mays, Sterile tassel silky ear1, Zmm16, MADS-box genes, autoregulation, floral development, floral organ identity, sex determination



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