An outstanding question in evolutionary biology is how genetic interactions defining novel traits evolve. They may evolve either by de novo assembly of previously non-interacting genes or by en bloc co-option of interactions from other functions. We tested these hypotheses in the context of a novel phenotype—Lamiales flower monosymmetry—defined by a developmental program that relies on regulatory interaction among CYCLOIDEA , RADIALIS , DIVARICATA , and DRIF gene products. In Antirrhinum majus (snapdragon), representing Lamiales, we tested whether components of this program likely function beyond their previously known role in petal and stamen development. In Solanum lycopersicum (tomato), representing Solanales which diverged from Lamiales before the origin of Lamiales floral monosymmetry, we additionally tested for regulatory interactions in this program.
We found that RADIALIS , DIVARICATA , and DRIF are expressed in snapdragon ovaries and developing fruit, similar to their homologs during tomato fruit development. Additionally, we found that a tomato CYCLOIDEA ortholog positively regulates a tomato RADIALIS ortholog.
Our results provide preliminary support to the hypothesis that the developmental program defining floral monosymmetry in Lamiales was co-opted en bloc from a function in carpel development. This expands our understanding of novel trait evolution facilitated by co-option of existing regulatory interactions.