MADS-box genes are essential in determining parts of a flower. Flowering plants belong to a larger group of plants that reproduce by making seeds called seed plants. Living seed plants can be divided into two major groups: those that develop seeds in flower structures (angiosperms) and those that develop seeds in cone structures (gymnosperms). Current knowledge of MADS-box genes in gymnosperms is limited, but it does support the hypothesis that flower parts and cone parts evolved from a similar set of MADS-box genes potentially common to all seed plants. In this study we focused on isolating and sequencing MADS-box genes from the gymnosperm cones of Ephedra and Juniper. This is the first report of MADS-box genes in Ephedra. Our increased sampling of gymnosperm MADS-box genes is improving our understanding of the evolutionary history of MADS-box genes in both gymnosperms and seed plants in general. This knowledge may help determine how cone and flowers are similar at the genetic level and how the genes involved in determining cone parts and flower parts evolved from a common ancestor.
Faculty Mentor: Jennifer Winther, Biology