Molecular Breeding

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 821–834 | Cite as

The APETALA1 and FRUITFUL homologs in Camellia japonica and their roles in double flower domestication

  • Yingkun Sun
  • Zhengqi Fan
  • Xinlei Li
  • Jiyuan Li
  • Hengfu Yin


The APETALA1/FRUITFUL (AP1/FUL) family genes encode MADS-box transcription factors, which are broadly involved in many aspects of floral development in higher plants. Gene duplication in the core eudicots has produced the euAP1 and euFUL clades. It remains unclear how the functional divergence of this gene family occurred. Camellia japonica is a famous ornamental species which belongs to the Theaceae (Ericales) group. Artificial selection for aesthetic flowers in Camellia has resulted in a remarkable diversity of floral forms, and double flower is one of the most important traits which provides a valuable resource for studying the underlying domestication mechanism. Here we isolated two homologs of the AP1/FUL family, named as CjAPL1 and CjAPL2, from C. japonica. Sequence and phylogenic analyses revealed that they were orthologs of FUL and AP1, respectively. We showed by gene expression profiling and ectopic expression in Arabidopsis that CjAPL1 and CjAPL2 potentially played different roles during floral development. Overexpression of CjAPL1/2 displayed similar phenotypes in Arabidopsis including early flowering, formation of terminal flowers, and increase in stamen and pistil numbers, but only in plants overexpressing CjAPL2 was the petal number increased. This therefore indicates that duplication of AP1- and FUL-like genes was functionally divergent in Ericales. Furthermore, higher expression levels of CjAPL1/2 were identified in four different double-flower varieties compared to wild single-flower camellias. Our results provide evidence for functional diversification of AP1-like and FUL-like genes in core eudicot species and point to their roles in double flower domestication.


AP1/FUL gene family Petal development ABC model Camellia Double flower formation 



This work was supported by funds from Key Projects in the National Science & Technology Pillar Program during the Twelfth Five-year Plan Period (No. 2012BAD01B0703). We also acknowledge International Sci. & Tech. Cooperation Program of China (2011DFA30490), Breeding New Flower Varieties Program of Zhejiang Province (2012C12909-6), the CAF Nonprofit Research Projects (RISF6141), and National Science Foundation of Guangxi Region (2012GXNSFBA053077). We thank Prof. Zhongchi Liu from the University of Maryland (College Park) for help with experimental design and analysis of data.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Institute of Subtropical ForestryChinese Academy of ForestryFuyangChina
  2. 2.College of Landscape Architecture and ForestryQingdao Agricultural UniversityQingdaoChina

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