Molecular evolution of PISTILLATA-like genes in the dogwood genus Cornus (Cornaceae)

Wenheng Zhang, Qiu Yun (Jenny) Xiang, David T. Thomas, Brian M. Wiegmann, Michael W. Frohlich, Douglas E. Soltis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The MADS-box gene family encodes critical regulators determining floral organ development. Understanding evolutionary patterns and processes of MADS-box genes is an important step toward unraveling the molecular basis of floral morphological evolution. In this study, we investigated the evolution of PI-like genes of the MADS-box family in the dogwood genus Cornus (Cornaceae). Cornus is a eudicot lineage in the asterids clade, and is intriguing in evolving petaloid bract morphology in two major lineages within the genus. The gene genealogy reconstructed using genomic DNA and cDNA sequences suggests multiple PI-like gene duplication events in Cornus. An ancient duplication event resulted in two ancient paralogs, CorPI-A and CorPI-B, which have highly diverged intron regions. Duplication of CorPI-A further resulted in two paralogs in one subgroup of Cornus, the BW group that does not produce modified bracts. Most species analyzed were found to contain more than one copy of the PI-like gene with most copies derived recently within species. Estimation and comparison of dN/dS ratios revealed relaxed selection in the PI-like gene in Cornus in comparison with the gene in the closely related outgroups Alangium and Davidia, and in other flowering plants. Selection also differed among major gene copies, CorPI-A and CorPI-B, and among different morphological subgroups of Cornus. Variation in selection pressures may indicate functional changes in PI-like genes after gene duplication and among different lineages. Strong positive selection at three amino acid sites of CorPI was also detected from a region critical for dimerization activity. Total substitution rates of the CorPI gene also differ among lineages of Cornus, showing a trend similar to that found in dN/dS ratios. We also found that the CorPI-A copy contains informative phylogenetic information when compared across species of Cornus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-195
Number of pages21
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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