Perennial woodland herbs in the genus Thalictrum exhibit high diversity of floral morphology, including four breeding and two pollination systems. Their phylogenetic position, in the early-diverging eudicots, makes them especially suitable for exploring the evolution of floral traits and the fate of gene paralogs that may have shaped the radiation of the eudicots. A current limitation in evolution of plant development studies is the lack of genetic tools for conducting functional assays in key taxa spanning the angiosperm phylogeny. We first show that virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) of a PHYTOENE DESATURASE ortholog (TdPDS) can be achieved in Thalictrum dioicum with an efficiency of 42% and a survival rate of 97%, using tobacco rattle virus (TRV) vectors. The photobleached leaf phenotype of silenced plants significantly correlates with the down-regulation of endogenous TdPDS (P<0.05), as compared to controls. Floral silencing of PDS was achieved in the faster flowering spring ephemeral T. thalictroides. In its close relative, T. clavatum, silencing of the floral MADS box gene AGAMOUS (AG) resulted in strong homeotic conversions of floral organs. In conclusion, we set forth our optimized protocol for VIGS by vacuum-infiltration of Thalictrum seedlings or dormant tubers as a reference for the research community. The three species reported here span the range of floral morphologies and pollination syndromes present in Thalictrum. The evidence presented on floral silencing of orthologs of the marker gene PDS and the floral homeotic gene AG will enable a comparative approach to the study of the evolution of flower development in this group.
di Stilio, V. S., Kumar, R. A., Oddone, A. M., Tolkin, T. R., Salles, P., & McCarty, K. (2010). Virus-induced gene silencing as a tool for comparative functional studies in Thalictrum. PLoS ONE, 5(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0012064