Fading Boundary Between Flower Parts in a Type of Columbine

Jim Crocker
26th May, 2024

Fading Boundary Between Flower Parts in a Type of Columbine

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara studied the genetic basis of staminode development in columbine flowers
  • The study found that the loss of staminodes in Aquilegia jonesii is controlled by multiple genes, not just one
  • Some genes responsible for staminode traits in A. jonesii overlap with those controlling other flower parts, indicating complex genetic interactions
The conversion of fertile stamens into sterile staminodes has independently occurred multiple times in the lineage of flowering plants. In the genus Aquilegia, commonly known as columbine, the two stamen whorls closest to the carpels have evolved into staminodes. A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara[1] has provided new insights into the genetic basis of this transformation, using a forward genetic approach. In previous studies, reverse genetic methods revealed that B-class floral identity genes are involved in the development of staminodes in Aquilegia[2]. However, these studies did not comprehensively address the genetic architecture underlying this trait. The new research leverages A. jonesii, the only species of columbine where staminodes have reverted to fertile stamens, to explore this genetic foundation. The researchers performed Quantitative Trait Locus (QTL) analysis using an outcrossed F2 population between A. jonesii and a horticultural variety that produces fully developed staminodes, A. coerulea ‘Origami’. QTL analysis is a method that helps identify the regions of the genome associated with specific phenotypic traits. The study found that the loss of staminodes in A. jonesii is polygenic, meaning multiple genes contribute to this trait. Moreover, the two staminode whorls appear to be independently controlled to some extent. Interestingly, the study also discovered that staminode loss in A. jonesii is not entirely complete. Traits resembling staminodes sometimes appear in the inner fertile stamens, suggesting a fading boundary of gene expression. This finding aligns with previous observations that floral organ identity can be influenced by overlapping fields of gene activity[3]. The QTLs identified in this study provide a roadmap for future research. These genetic markers can guide reverse genetic and functional studies aimed at understanding the genetic basis and evolutionary significance of staminode development. The findings also contribute to our broader understanding of floral evolution and the genetic mechanisms that drive morphological diversity in plants. In summary, this study has advanced our understanding of staminode development in Aquilegia by identifying specific genetic regions associated with this trait. It builds on previous research by offering a more detailed genetic framework, which can be used to further explore the evolutionary and functional aspects of floral morphology.

GeneticsPlant ScienceEvolution


Main Study

1) Loss of staminodes in Aquilegia jonesii reveals a fading stamen–staminode boundary

Published 25th May, 2024


Related Studies

2) Within and between whorls: comparative transcriptional profiling of Aquilegia and Arabidopsis.


3) Genetic interactions among floral homeotic genes of Arabidopsis.

Journal: Development (Cambridge, England), Issue: Vol 112, Issue 1, May 1991

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