Leaf Shape Evolution Through Duplication, Regulatory Diversification, and Loss of a Homeobox Gene

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Science  14 Feb 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6172, pp. 780-783
DOI: 10.1126/science.1248384

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Developmental Complexity

Although related, the plants Arabidopsis thaliana and Cardamine hirsuta have different sorts of leaves—one, a rather plain oval and the other, a complicated multipart construction. Comparing the development of the two leaf types, Vlad et al. (p. 780) uncovered a gene that regulates developmental growth. The C. hirsuta gene encoding the REDUCED COMPLEXITY (RCO) homeodomain protein arose through gene duplication and neofunctionalization, but was lost in the A. thaliana lineage. In C. hirsuta, RCO suppresses growth in domains around the perimeter of the developing leaf, yielding complex-shaped leaves. A. thaliana, lacking RCO, produces simple leaves. When RCO was expressed in A. thaliana, the leaves became more complex. Thus, the capacity to produce complex leaves remains, despite loss of the initiator.