BACKGROUND The INNER NO OUTER (INO) gene is expressed in the outermost cell layer of the outer integument of bitegmic ovules and is essential for this organ's growth. The role and cross-species functional conservation of INO orthologs were examined in members of the Solanaceae, which have unitegmic ovules. Unitegmy has evolved several times in disparate angiosperm lineages. INO expression has been observed in the outermost cell layers of all examined unitegmic ovules, but the functional role of INO in unitegmic ovules has not previously been evaluated. RESULTS INO orthologs were unambiguously identified in tobacco and tomato by sequence homology. Expression of the tomato INO gene was limited to the outer cell layer of the single integument indicating that this single integument has properties of the outer integument. Expression occurred only after integument initiation, later than observed in ovules of other examined angiosperms. Virus-induced knock-down of expression of the INO ortholog in tobacco inhibited growth of the outer cell layer of the integument leading to a decrease in both integument extension and curvature of the ovule. The altered ovules closely resemble those of the aberrant testa shape (ats) ino mutant combination in Arabidopsis where we see the effect of the ino mutation on a single fused integument produced by the ats mutation. Despite significant sequence identity and similar expression patterns, the tomato INO coding region was not able to complement the Arabidopsis ino mutant. CONCLUSIONS The similarity of effects of ino mutations on the unitegmic ovules of tobacco and the fused integuments of the Arabidopsis ats mutant show that: 1) INO orthologs play the same role in promoting integument growth in ovules of tobacco and Arabidopsis; and 2) the unitegmic ovules of tobacco (and hence other solanaceous species) are most likely the result of a congenital fusion of two ancestral integuments. Our results further indicate that INO has a conserved role in growth of the outermost cell layer of integuments. The curvature of solanaceous ovules is driven by unequal growth of the outer layers of the single integument that likely correspond to an ancestral outer integument.
Skinner, D. J., Brown, R. H., Kuzoff, R. K., & Gasser, C. S. (2016). Conservation of the role of INNER NO OUTER in development of unitegmic ovules of the Solanaceae despite a divergence in protein function. BMC Plant Biology, 16(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12870-016-0835-z