, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 79-92

Molecular evolution of the chalcone synthase multigene family in the morning glory genome

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Abstract

Plant genomes appear to exploit the process of gene duplication as a primary means of acquiring biochemical and developmental flexibility. Thus, for example, most of the enzymatic components of plant secondary metabolism are encoded by small families of genes that originated through duplication over evolutionary time. The dynamics of gene family evolution are well illustrated by the genes that encode chalcone synthase (CHS), the first committed step in flavonoid biosynthesis. We review pertinent facts about CHS evolution in flowering plants with special reference to the morning glory genus, Ipomoea. Our review shows that new CHS genes are recruited recurrently in flowering plant evolution. Rates of nucleotide substitution are frequently accelerated in new duplicate genes, and there is clear evidence for repeated shifts in enzymatic function among duplicate copies of CHS genes. In addition, we present new data on expression patterns of CHS genes as a function of tissue and developmental stage in the common morning glory (I. purpurea). These data show extensive differentiation in gene expression among duplicate copies of CHS genes. We also show that a single mutation which blocks anthocyanin biosynthesis in the floral limb is correlated with a loss of expression of one of the six duplicate CHS genes present in the morning glory genome. This suggests that different duplicate copies of CHS have acquired specialized functional roles over the course of evolution. We conclude that recurrent gene duplication and subsequent differentiation is a major adaptive strategy in plant genome evolution.