Beyond Arabidopsis. Translational biology meets evolutionary developmental biology.
Developmental processes shape plant morphologies, which constitute important adaptive traits selected for during evolution. Identifying the genes that act in developmental pathways and determining how they are modified during evolution is the focus of the field of evolutionary developmental biology, or evo-devo. Knowledge of genetic pathways in the plant model Arabidopsis serves as the starting point for investigating how the toolkit of developmental pathways has been used and reused to form different plant body plans. One productive approach is to identify genes in other species that are orthologous to genes known to control developmental pathways in Arabidopsis and then determine what changes have occurred in the protein coding sequence or in the gene's expression to produce an altered morphology. A second approach relies on natural variation among wild populations or crop plants. Natural variation can be exploited to identify quantitative trait loci that underlie important developmental traits and, thus, define those genes that are responsible for adaptive changes. The possibility of applying comparative genomics approaches to Arabidopsis and related species promises profound new insights into the interplay of evolution and development.
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