Flower color as a model system for studies of plant evo-devo
- Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA
Even though pigmentation traits have had substantial impacts on the field of animal evolutionary developmental biology, they have played only relatively minor roles in plant evo-devo. This is surprising given the often direct connection between flower color and fitness variation mediated through the effects of pollinators. At the same time, ecological and evolutionary genetic studies have utilized the molecular resources available for the anthocyanin pathway to generate several examples of the molecular basis of putatively adaptive transitions in flower color. Despite this opportunity to synthesize experimental approaches in ecology, evolution, and developmental biology, the investigation of many fundamental questions in evo-devo using this powerful model is only at its earliest stages. For example, a long-standing question is whether predictable genetic changes accompany the repeated evolution of a trait. Due to the conserved nature of the biochemical and regulatory control of anthocyanin biosynthesis, it has become possible to determine whether, and under what circumstances, different types of mutations responsible for flower color variation are preferentially targeted by natural selection. In addition, because plants use anthocyanin and related compounds in vegetative tissue for other important physiological functions, the identification of naturally occurring transitions from unpigmented to pigmented flowers provides the opportunity to examine the mechanisms by which regulatory networks are co-opted into new developmental domains. Here, we review what is known about the ecological and molecular basis of anthocyanic flower color transitions in natural systems, focusing on the evolutionary and developmental features involved. In doing so, we provide suggestions for future work on this trait and suggest that there is still much to be learned from the evolutionary development of flower color transitions in nature.
Keywords: anthocyanin, flower color, R2R3-MYB, predictability, co-option, pleiotropy
Citation: Sobel JM and Streisfeld MA (2013) Flower color as a model system for studies of plant evo-devo. Front. Plant Sci. 4:321. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2013.00321
Received: 01 June 2013; Paper pending published: 13 June 2013;
Accepted: 30 July 2013; Published online: 20 August 2013.
Copyright © 2013 Sobel and Streisfeld. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
*Correspondence: Matthew A. Streisfeld, Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Oregon, Box 5289, Eugene, OR 97403-5289, USA e-mail: email@example.com