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Concept: Flowering plant


Recent advances in molecular phylogenetics and a series of important palaeobotanical discoveries have revolutionized our understanding of angiosperm diversification. Yet, the origin and early evolution of their most characteristic feature, the flower, remains poorly understood. In particular, the structure of the ancestral flower of all living angiosperms is still uncertain. Here we report model-based reconstructions for ancestral flowers at the deepest nodes in the phylogeny of angiosperms, using the largest data set of floral traits ever assembled. We reconstruct the ancestral angiosperm flower as bisexual and radially symmetric, with more than two whorls of three separate perianth organs each (undifferentiated tepals), more than two whorls of three separate stamens each, and more than five spirally arranged separate carpels. Although uncertainty remains for some of the characters, our reconstruction allows us to propose a new plausible scenario for the early diversification of flowers, leading to new testable hypotheses for future research on angiosperms.

Concepts: Pollination, Flowering plant, Flower, Pollen, Plant sexuality, Petal, Sepal, Asteraceae


CRISPR/Cas9 technology is a versatile tool for targeted mutagenesis in many organisms, including plants. However, this technique has not been applied to the Japanese morning glory (Ipomoea [Pharbitis] nil), a traditional garden plant chosen for the National BioResource Project in Japan. We selected dihydroflavonol-4-reductase-B (DFR-B) of I. nil, encoding an anthocyanin biosynthesis enzyme, as the target gene, and changes in the stem colour were observed during the early stages of plant tissue culture by Rhizobium [Agrobacterium]-mediated transformation. Twenty-four of the 32 (75%) transgenic plants bore anthocyanin-less white flowers with bi-allelic mutations at the Cas9 cleavage site in DFR-B, exhibiting a single base insertion or deletions of more than two bases. Thus, these results demonstrate that CRISPR/Cas9 technology enables the exploration of gene functions in this model horticultural plant. To our knowledge, this report is the first concerning flower colour changes in higher plants using CRISPR/Cas9 technology.

Concepts: Genetics, Mutation, Organism, Plant, Vascular plant, Flowering plant, Vascular tissue, Ipomoea


The MEAM1 (B biotype) Bemisia tabaci (Gennadius) is one of the most widespread and damaging whitefly cryptic species. Our previous studies discovered that the MEAM1 whitefly indirectly benefits from interactions with the tomato yellow leaf curl China virus (TYLCCNV) via accelerated ovarian development and increased fecundity. However, the physiological mechanism of begomoviruse-infected plants acting on the reproduction of the insect vector was unknown.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Organism, Life, Species, Plant, Fern, Flowering plant, Whitefly


The evolution of mating systems, which exhibit an extraordinary diversity in flowering plants, is of central interest in plant biology. Herkogamy, the spatial separation of sexual organs within flowers, is a widespread floral mechanism that is thought to be an adaptive trait reducing self-pollination in hermaphroditic plants. In contrast with previous studies of herkogamy that focused on plants with relatively large floral displays, we here characterized herkogamy in , a model plant with a strong selfing syndrome. Developmental features, reproductive consequences, and genetic architecture of herkogamy were exploited using naturally variable accessions, under both greenhouse and natural conditions. Our results demonstrate that the degree of herkogamy can strongly influence the mating patterns of : approach herkogamy can effectively promote outcrossing, no herkogamy is also capable of enhancing the opportunity for outcrossing, and reverse herkogamy facilitates efficient self-pollination. In addition, we found that the expression of herkogamy in was environment-dependent and regulated by multiple quantitative trait loci. This study reveals how minor modifications in floral morphology may cause dramatic changes in plant mating patterns, provides new insights into the function of herkogamy, and suggests the way for dissecting the genetic basis of this important character in a model plant.

Concepts: Genetics, Biology, Model organism, Arabidopsis thaliana, Pollination, Flowering plant, Flower, Plant sexuality


Apolygus lucorum (Meyer-Dür) (Hemiptera: Miridae) is one of the most important herbivores in a broad range of cultivated plants, including cotton, cereals, vegetables, and fruit crops in China. In this manuscript, we report on a 6-year long study in which (adult) A. lucorum abundance was recorded on 174 plant species from 39 families from early July to mid-September. Through the study period per year, the proportion of flowering plants exploited by adult A. lucorum was significantly greater than that of non-flowering plants. For a given plant species, A. lucorum adults reached peak abundance at the flowering stage, when the plant had the greatest attraction to the adults. More specifically, mean adult abundance on 26 species of major host plants and their relative standard attraction were 10.3-28.9 times and 9.3-19.5 times higher at flowering stage than during non-flowering periods, respectively. Among all the tested species, A. lucorum adults switched food plants according to the succession of flowering plant species. In early July, A. lucorum adults preferred some plant species in bloom, such as Vigna radiata, Gossypium hirsutum, Helianthus annuus and Chrysanthemum coronarium; since late July, adults dispersed into other flowering hosts (e.g. Ricinus communis, Impatiens balsamina, Humulus scandens, Ocimum basilicum, Agastache rugosus and Coriandrum sativum); in early September, they largely migrated to flowering Artemisia spp. (e.g. A. argyi, A. lavandulaefolia, A. annua and A. scoparia). Our findings underscore the important role of flowering plays in the population dynamics and inter-plant migration of this mirid bug. Also, our work helps understand evolutionary aspects of host plant use in polyphagous insects such as A. lucorum, and provides baseline information for the development of sustainable management strategies of this key agricultural pest.

Concepts: Plant, Annual plant, Fern, Euphorbiaceae, Flowering plant, Flower, Oak, Heteroptera


Here we report on angiosperm-like pollen and Afropollis from the Anisian (Middle Triassic, 247.2-242.0 Ma) of a mid-latitudinal site in Northern Switzerland. Small monosulcate pollen grains with typical reticulate (semitectate) sculpture, columellate structure of the sexine and thin nexine show close similarities to early angiosperm pollen known from the Early Cretaceous. However, they differ in their extremely thin inner layer (nexine). Six different pollen types (I-VI) are differentiated based on size, reticulation pattern, and exine structure. The described pollen grains show all the essential features of angiosperm pollen. However, considering the lack of a continuous record throughout the lower part of the Mesozoic and the comparison with the oldest Cretaceous finds we suggest an affinity to an angiosperm stem group. Together with the previously published records from the Middle Triassic of the Barents Sea area the angiosperm-like pollen grains reflect a considerable diversity of the parent plants during the Middle Triassic. Sedimentological evidence and associated palynofloras also suggest a remarkable ecological range for these plants. Associated with these grains we found pollen comparable to the genus Afropollis. Representatives of this genus are commonly recorded in Lower Cretaceous sediments of low latitudes, but until now had no record from the lower part of the Mesozoic.

Concepts: Flowering plant, Pollen, Cretaceous, Triassic, Psittacosaurus, Early Cretaceous, Spinosauridae, Anisian


The abrupt origin and rapid diversification of the flowering plants during the Cretaceous has long been considered an “abominable mystery.” While the cause of their high diversity has been attributed largely to coevolution with pollinators and herbivores, their ability to outcompete the previously dominant ferns and gymnosperms has been the subject of many hypotheses. Common among these is that the angiosperms alone developed leaves with smaller, more numerous stomata and more highly branching venation networks that enable higher rates of transpiration, photosynthesis, and growth. Yet, how angiosperms pack their leaves with smaller, more abundant stomata and more veins is unknown but linked-we show-to simple biophysical constraints on cell size. Only angiosperm lineages underwent rapid genome downsizing during the early Cretaceous period, which facilitated the reductions in cell size necessary to pack more veins and stomata into their leaves, effectively bringing actual primary productivity closer to its maximum potential. Thus, the angiosperms' heightened competitive abilities are due in no small part to genome downsizing.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Insect, Plant, Pollination, Fern, Leaf, Flowering plant, Cretaceous


Various colored cultivars of ornamental flowers have been bred by hybridization and mutation breeding; however, the generation of blue flowers for major cut flower plants, such as roses, chrysanthemums, and carnations, has not been achieved by conventional breeding or genetic engineering. Most blue-hued flowers contain delphinidin-based anthocyanins; therefore, delphinidin-producing carnation, rose, and chrysanthemum flowers have been generated by overexpression of the gene encoding flavonoid 3',5'-hydroxylase (F3'5'H), the key enzyme for delphinidin biosynthesis. Even so, the flowers are purple/violet rather than blue. To generate true blue flowers, blue pigments, such as polyacylated anthocyanins and metal complexes, must be introduced by metabolic engineering; however, introducing and controlling multiple transgenes in plants are complicated processes. We succeeded in generating blue chrysanthemum flowers by introduction of butterfly pea UDP (uridine diphosphate)-glucose:anthocyanin 3',5'-O-glucosyltransferase gene, in addition to the expression of the Canterbury bells F3'5'H. Newly synthesized 3',5'-diglucosylated delphinidin-based anthocyanins exhibited a violet color under the weakly acidic pH conditions of flower petal juice and showed a blue color only through intermolecular association, termed “copigmentation,” with flavone glucosides in planta. Thus, we achieved the development of blue color by a two-step modification of the anthocyanin structure. This simple method is a promising approach to generate blue flowers in various ornamental plants by metabolic engineering.

Concepts: Color, PH, Flowering plant, Flower, Flowers, Chrysanthemum, Asteraceae, Garden plants


Plant volatiles play important roles in attraction of certain pollinators and in host location by herbivorous insects. Virus infection induces changes in plant volatile emission profiles, and this can make plants more attractive to insect herbivores, such as aphids, that act as viral vectors. However, it is unknown if virus-induced alterations in volatile production affect plant-pollinator interactions. We found that volatiles emitted by cucumber mosaic virus (CMV)-infected tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) and Arabidopsis thaliana plants altered the foraging behaviour of bumblebees (Bombus terrestris). Virus-induced quantitative and qualitative changes in blends of volatile organic compounds emitted by tomato plants were identified by gas chromatography-coupled mass spectrometry. Experiments with a CMV mutant unable to express the 2b RNA silencing suppressor protein and with Arabidopsis silencing mutants implicate microRNAs in regulating emission of pollinator-perceivable volatiles. In tomato, CMV infection made plants emit volatiles attractive to bumblebees. Bumblebees pollinate tomato by ‘buzzing’ (sonicating) the flowers, which releases pollen and enhances self-fertilization and seed production as well as pollen export. Without buzz-pollination, CMV infection decreased seed yield, but when flowers of mock-inoculated and CMV-infected plants were buzz-pollinated, the increased seed yield for CMV-infected plants was similar to that for mock-inoculated plants. Increased pollinator preference can potentially increase plant reproductive success in two ways: i) as female parents, by increasing the probability that ovules are fertilized; ii) as male parents, by increasing pollen export. Mathematical modeling suggested that over a wide range of conditions in the wild, these increases to the number of offspring of infected susceptible plants resulting from increased pollinator preference could outweigh underlying strong selection pressures favoring pathogen resistance, allowing genes for disease susceptibility to persist in plant populations. We speculate that enhanced pollinator service for infected individuals in wild plant populations might provide mutual benefits to the virus and its susceptible hosts.

Concepts: Plant, Annual plant, Fruit, Tomato, Pollination, Flowering plant, Bumblebee, Pollinator


Bees provide critical pollination services to 87% of angiosperm plants; however, the reliability of these services may become threatened as bee populations decline. Agricultural intensification, resulting in the simplification of environments at the landscape scale, greatly changes the quality and quantity of resources available for female bees to provision their offspring. These changes may alter or constrain the tradeoffs in maternal investment allocation between offspring size, number and sex required to maximize fitness. Here we investigate the relationship between landscape scale agricultural intensification and the size and number of individuals within a wild ground nesting bee species, Andrena nasonii. We show that agricultural intensification at the landscape scale was associated with a reduction in the average size of field collected A. nasonii adults in highly agricultural landscapes but not with the number of individuals collected. Small females carried significantly smaller (40%) pollen loads than large females, which is likely to have consequences for subsequent offspring production and fitness. Thus, landscape simplification is likely to constrain allocation of resources to offspring through a reduction in the overall quantity, quality and distribution of resources.

Concepts: Evolution, Insect, Sex, Flowering plant, Flower, Bee, Resource allocation, Bees