Selection during evolution, whether natural or artificial, acts through the phenotype. For multifaceted phenotypes such as plant and inflorescence architecture, the underlying genetic architecture is comprised of a complex network of interacting genes rather than single genes that act independently to determine the trait. As such, selection acts on entire gene networks. Here, we begin to define the genetic regulatory network to which the maize domestication gene, teosinte branched1 (tb1), belongs. Using a combination of molecular methods to uncover either direct or indirect regulatory interactions, we identified a set of genes that lie downstream of tb1 in a gene network regulating both plant and inflorescence architecture. Additional genes, known from the literature, also act in this network. We observed that tb1 regulates both core cell cycle genes and another maize domestication gene, teosinte glume architecture1 (tga1). We show that several members of the MADS-box gene family are either directly or indirectly regulated by tb1 and/or tga1, and that tb1 sits atop a cascade of transcriptional regulators controlling both plant and inflorescence architecture. Multiple members of the tb1 network appear to have been the targets of selection during maize domestication. Knowledge of the regulatory hierarchies controlling traits is central to understanding how new morphologies evolve.
ASJC Scopus subject areas