Character Evolution and Evolutionary Development (Evo-Devo)

Robust phylogenetic hypotheses are essential for an analysis of morphological changes over evolutionary times. In Evo-Devo we are utilizing these phylogenetic trees to investigate the type and direction of change and the level of parallelisms, convergences in character evolution. For instance, actinomorphic flowers are rare in OW Gesneriaceae, and only a few out of ~85 genera possess regular flowers. Our results have shown that this trait has evolved independently several times.

We are also interested in understanding the underlying genetics of inter-specific phenotype variation. To this end we isolate candidate genes putatively responsible for the morphological variation and study their expression pattern.

Besides floral characters we study the evolution of vegetative variation. The African genus Streptocarpus shows a very labile vegetative morphology, with unifoliate, rosulate and caulescent morphs. We have studied genes, shown to be involved in meristem establishment and maintenance in the model plant Arabidopsis, for their behaviour in Streptocarpus. We investigated genes such as FILAMENT (FIL), PHANTASTICA (PHAN), WUSCHEL (WUS), and KNOX1 genes, such as BREVIPEDICELLUS (BP) and SHOOTMERISTEMLESS (STM), for their involvement in the meristem formation in Streptocarpus from embryo development to mature plants.

Recently, we have initiated projects to employ next generation sequencing approaches to study the genetic controls underlying the morphological diversity in Streptocarpus. We intend to harness a combination of next generation sequencing techniques and restriction-site associated DNA sequencing (RADseq) to generate a genetic map of Streptocarpus and associate the loci on the map. Transcriptome and synteny analyses will be used to obtain candidate genes for the loci. The work will deepen our understanding of the evolution of meristem control mechanisms which ultimately determines the morphological diversity in plants.

Current Projects:

Genetic control of floral form and pollination syndromes in Streptocarpus (with Javier Luna-Castro, Dr James Richardson, RBGE; Catherine Kidner, University of Edinburgh) 

Meristem evolution in Gesneriaceae (with Dr Kanae Nishii Tokyo Gakugei University; Prof Wang [Bruce] Chun-Neng, National Taiwan University)

Understanding meristem function in the morphologically flexible genus Streptocarpus (with Yun-Yu Chen, RBGE; Dr Kanae Nishii Tokyo Gakugei University; Catherine Kidner, University of Edinburgh)

Previous Projects:

Hormone involvement in anisocotyly of Streptocarpus (with Dr Kanae Nishii, Prof Wang Chun-Neng [Bruce], National Taiwan University; Dr Alberto Spada, University of Milan).

The involvement and expression of meristem genes in the phyllomorphic concept in Streptocarpus (Gesneriaceae) (with Prof Toshiyuki Nagata, University of Tokyo; Dr Alberto Spada, University of Milan).

Genetics and evolution of floral shapes in Streptocarpus (Gesneriaceae) (with Prof Wang Chun-Neng [Bruce], National Taiwan University)

Publications (chronologically):

Nishii K, MJ Ho, YW Chou, D Gabotti, CN Wang, A Spada, M MÖLLER (2014). GA2 and GA20-oxidase expressions are associated with the meristem position in Streptocarpus rexii (Gesneriaceae). Plant Growth Regulation 72:123-140.

Nishii K, T Nagata, CN Wang, M MÖLLER (2012). Light as environmental regulator for germination and macrocotyledon development in Streptocarpus rexii (Gesneriaceae). South African Journal of Botany 81:50-60.

Nishii, K, CN Wang, A Spada, T Nagata, M MÖLLER (2012). Gibberellin as a suppressor of lateral dominance and inducer of apical growth in the unifoliate Streptocarpus wendlandii. New Zealand Journal of Botany doi: 10.1080/0028825X.2012.671775.

Nishii K, M MÖLLER, T Nagata (2011). One-leaf plants and their relatives. Japanese Journal of Heredity, 65:10-17.

Nishii K, M MÖLLER, C Kidner, A Spada, R Mantegazza, CN Wang, T Nagata (2010). A complex case of simple leaves: indeterminate leaves co-express ARP and KNOX1 genes. Developmental Genes and Evolution 220:25-40.

Tononi P, M MÖLLER, S Bencivenga, A Spada (2010). GRAMINIFOLIA homolog expression in Streptocarpus rexii is associated with the basal meristems in phyllomorphs, a morphological novelty in Gesneriaceae. Evolution & Development 12(1):61-73.

Mantegazza R, P Tononi, M MÖLLER, A Spada (2009). WUS and STM homologues are linked to the expression of lateral dominance in the acaulescent Streptocarpus rexii (Gesneriaceae). Planta 230(3): 529-542. 

Mantegazza R, M MÖLLER, CJ Harrison, S Fior, C DeLuca, A Spada. (2007). Anisocotyly and meristem initiation in an unorthodox plant, Streptocarpus rexii (Gesneriaceae). Planta 225(3):653-663.

Palee P, J Denduangboripant, V. Anusarnsunthorn, M MÖLLER (2006). Molecular phylogeny and character evolution of Didymocarpus (Gesneriaceae) in Thailand. Edinburgh Journal of Botany 63(2&3):231-251.

Harrison J, M MÖLLER, J Langdale, Q Cronk, A Hudson (2005). The role of KNOX genes in the evolution of morphological novelty in Streptocarpus. The Plant Cell 17:430-443.

Wang CN, M MÖLLER, QCB Cronk (2004a). Altered expression of GFLO, the Gesneriaceae homologue of FLORICAULA/LEAFY, is associated with the transition to bulbil formation in Titanotrichum oldhamii. Development Genes and Evolution 214:122-127.

Wang CN, M MÖLLER, QCB Cronk (2004b). Aspects of sexual failure in the reproductive processes of a rare bulbiliferous plant, Titanotrichum oldhamii (Gesneriaceae) in subtropical Asia. Sexual Plant Reproduction 17:23-31.

Wang YZ, M MÖLLER, DY Hong (2002). Floral development in Whytockia (Gesneriaceae) with phylogenetic implications. Plant Biology 4:492-502.

MÖLLER M, QCB Cronk (2001a). Evolution of morphological novelty: a phylogenetic analysis of growth patterns in Streptocarpus (Gesneriaceae). Evolution 55(5):918-929.

Citerne HL, M MÖLLER, QCB Cronk (2000). Diversity of cycloidea-like genes in Gesneriaceae in relation to floral symmetry. Annals of Botany 86(1):167-176. 

Harrison CJ, M MÖLLER, QCB Cronk (1999). Evolution and development of floral diversity in Streptocarpus and Saintpaulia. Annals of Botany 84:49-60.

MÖLLER M, M Clokie, P Cubas, QCB Cronk (1999). Integrating molecular phylogenies and developmental genetics: a Gesneriaceae case study. In: PM Hollingsworth, RM Bateman, RJ Gornall (eds) Molecular systematics and plant evolution. 375-402. London: Taylor & Francis.

Cronk QCB, M MÖLLER (1997a). Genetics of floral symmetry revealed. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 12(3):85-86.

Cronk QCB, M MÖLLER (1997b). Strange morphogenesis - organ determination in Monophyllaea. Trends in Plant Science 2(9):327-328.

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GA20 oxidase expression in developing Streptocarpus embryos (Nishii et al 2014).

GA20 oxidase expression in developing Streptocarpus embryos (Nishii et al 2014).

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