Petal tissue comprises several different cell types, which have specialised functions in pollination in different flowering plant species. In Antirrhinum majus, the MIXTA protein directs the formation of conical epidermal cells in petals. Transgenic experiments have indicated that MIXTA activity can also initiate trichome development, dependent on the developmental timing of its expression. MIXTA is normally expressed late in petal development and functions only in conical cell differentiation. However, an R2R3 MYB transcription factor very similar to MIXTA (AmMYBML1), which induces both trichome and conical cell formation in transgenic plants, is expressed very early during the development of the ventral petal. Its cellular expression pattern suggests that it fulfils three functions: trichome production in the corolla tube, conical cell development in the petal hinge epidermis and reinforcement of the hinge through differential mesophyll cell expansion. The DIVARICATA (DIV) gene is required for ventral petal identity. In div mutants, the ventral petal assumes the identity of lateral petals lacking these three specialised cell types, and expression of AmMYBML1 is significantly reduced compared with wild type, supporting the proposed role of AmMYBML1 in petal cell specification. We suggest that AmMYBML1 is regulated by DIV in association with the B-function proteins DEFICIENS and GLOBOSA, and, consequently, controls specification of particular cells within the ventral petal which adapt the corolla to specialised functions in pollination.
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