Meeting Abstract

S10-10  Sunday, Jan. 8 14:00 - 14:30  Novelty in grass flowers: making the links between molecules and morphology BARTLETT, ME*; AYHAN, D; KLEIN, H; HANDAKUMBURA, P; WHIPPLE, CJ; BABBITT, C; University of Massachusetts Amherst; University of Massachusetts Amherst; University of Massachusetts Amherst; Brigham Young University; University of Massachusetts Amherst; University of Massachusetts Amherst

The grass family is fabulously diverse. Grasses are dominant in terrestrial ecosystems, and the cornerstone of human society because humans are dependent on grasses for grain. The grass flower is highly derived and morphologically specialized for wind pollination. My lab has been working to understand the molecular underpinnings of grass flower specialization, focused in particular on floral organ identity in the grasses, and on the evolution and development of unisexual grass flowers. Our characterization of homeotic organ identity genes in the grasses has shed light not only on the specification of floral organ identity, but has also revealed a complex history of shifting protein-protein interactions between these homeotic transcription factors. I will discuss our work dissecting the consequences of these shifting protein-protein interactions to the evolution of gene regulation. I will also discuss the development and evolution of floral sexuality in the grass family. Unisexual flowers have evolved multiple times in the grasses, from an ancestrally hermaphroditic state. My lab is working to identify and characterize the genes that control unisexual grass flower development, and to understand how these genes have evolved in the grass family.