Scientists have identified the cluster of genes responsible for reproductive traits in the Primula flower, first noted as important by Charles Darwin more than 150 years ago.
Over a century ago, Darwin put forth the idea that some plant species that exhibit two different flower forms (where male/female reproductive organs differ in length) had evolved to maximize their ability to out-cross through insect pollinators.
Now, scientists at the University of East Anglia, working at the John Innes Centre, have identified exactly which part of these species’ genetic code made them that way.
According to Philip Gilmartin from UEA’s School of Biological Sciences, “To identify the genes which control the biology noted by Darwin is an exciting moment. Many studies have been done over the past decades to explore the genetic basis of this phenomenon but now we have pinpointed the supergene directly responsible, the S locus.”
Supergenes are clusters of closely-associated genes which are always inherited together as a unit and allow complex biology to be controlled. Researchers worked with the Earlham Institute to map the plant’s genes and sequence the Primula genome to find the specific gene cluster responsible for creating the differing flower morphs.