Differential expression of MADS-box genes
--Achim Fischer, Heinz Saedler and Günter Theissen

We have developed a novel protocol for efficient expression analysis of multigene families. The method enables a reliable and detailed high resolution expression analysis of known gene family members as well as the identification and characterization of new ones. We have used this technique to analyze differential expression of MADS-box genes in male and female inflorescences of maize. Six different MADS-box genes could be identified, among them four that had been described before, namely zag1, zag2 (Schmidt et al., Plant Cell 5:729-737), zmm1 and zmm2 (Theißen et al., Gene, in press). According to Northern experiments as well as studies using our new protocol, zag1 is more strongly expressed in female inflorescences, whereas zmm2 is preferentially expressed in the tassel. zag2 and zmm1 expression is restricted to the female inflorescence. zmm3 and zmm7 are new genes identified by use of our technique, with zmm3 being preferentially expressed in the male inflorescence, and zmm7 being female-specific (see also Cacharrón et al., this issue). We suggest that our approach not only opens a major avenue towards expression analysis of gene families in general, but, applied to MADS-box genes, may help to answer old questions about the molecular basis of sex determination, monoecy/dioecy and certain flower mutations.
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