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Open Access Research article

Diversification of CYCLOIDEA-like genes in Dipsacaceae (Dipsacales): implications for the evolution of capitulum inflorescences

Sara E Carlson14*, Dianella G Howarth2 and Michael J Donoghue13

Author affiliations

1 Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, P.O. Box 208106, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8106, USA

2 Department of Biological Sciences, 8000 Utopia Pkwy, St John's University, Jamaica, New York 11439, USA

3 Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University, P.O. Box 208106, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8106, USA

4 Department of Evolutionary Botany, University of Neuchâtel, Rue Emile-Argand 11, CH-2009, Neuchâtel, Switzerland

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Citation and License

BMC Evolutionary Biology 2011, 11:325  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-325

Published: 6 November 2011



CYCLOIDEA (CYC)-like genes have been implicated in the development of capitulum inflorescences (i.e. flowering heads) in Asteraceae, where many small flowers (florets) are packed tightly into an inflorescence that resembles a single flower. Several rounds of duplication of CYC-like genes have occurred in Asteraceae, and this is hypothesized to be correlated with the evolution of the capitulum, which in turn has been implicated in the evolutionary success of the group. We investigated the evolution of CYC-like genes in Dipsacaceae (Dipsacales), a plant clade in which capitulum inflorescences originated independently of Asteraceae. Two main inflorescence types are present in Dipsacaceae: (1) radiate species contain two kinds of floret within the flowering head (disk and ray), and (2) discoid species contain only disk florets. To test whether a dynamic pattern of gene duplication, similar to that documented in Asteraceae, is present in Dipsacaceae, and whether these patterns are correlated with different inflorescence types, we inferred a CYC-like gene phylogeny for Dipsacaceae based on representative species from the major lineages.


We recovered within Dipsacaceae the three major forms of CYC-like genes that have been found in most core eudicots, and identified several additional duplications within each of these clades. We found that the number of CYC-like genes in Dipsacaceae is similar to that reported for members of Asteraceae and that the same gene lineages (CYC1-like and CYC2B-like genes) have duplicated in a similar fashion independently in both groups. The number of CYC-like genes recovered for radiate versus discoid species differed, with discoid species having fewer copies of CYC1-like and CYC2B-like genes.


CYC-like genes have undergone extensive duplication in Dipsacaceae, with radiate species having more copies than discoid species, suggesting a potential role for these genes in the evolution of disk and ray florets. The similarity in CYC-like gene diversification seen in Dipsacaceae and some members of the Asteraceae sets the stage to investigate whether the convergent evolution of capitulum inflorescences in both groups may have been underlain by convergent evolution in the same gene family.