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Article|01 Apr 2021|OPEN
Divergence of three BRX homoeologs in Brassica rapa and its effect on leaf morphology
Yuanyuan Zhang1, Jianli Liang1, Xu Cai1, Haixu Chen1, Jian Wu1, Runmao Lin1, Feng Cheng1 & Xiaowu Wang1,
1Institute of Vegetables and Flowers, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science, Beijing, China

Horticulture Research 8,
Article number: 68 (2021)
doi: 10.1038/hortres.2021.68
Views: 188

Received: 18 Sep 2020
Revised: 28 Dec 2020
Accepted: 17 Jan 2021
Published online: 01 Apr 2021


The leafy head characteristic is a special phenotype of Chinese cabbage resulting from artificial selection during domestication and breeding. BREVIS RADIX (BRX) has been suggested to control root elongation, shoot growth, and tiller angle in Arabidopsis and rice. In Brassica rapa, three BrBRX homoeologs have been identified, but only BrBRX.1 and BrBRX.2 were found to be under selection in leaf-heading accessions, indicating their functional diversification in leafy head formation. Here, we show that these three BrBRX genes belong to a plant-specific BRX gene family but that they have significantly diverged from other BRX-like members on the basis of different phylogenetic classifications, motif compositions and expression patterns. Moreover, although the expression of these three BrBRX genes differed, compared with BrBRX.3, BrBRX.1, and BrBRX.2 displayed similar expression patterns. Arabidopsis mutant complementation studies showed that only BrBRX.1 could rescue the brx root phenotype, whereas BrBRX.2 and BrBRX.3 could not. However, overexpression of each of the three BrBRX genes in Arabidopsis resulted in similar pleiotropic leaf phenotypes, including epinastic leaf morphology, with an increase in leaf number and leaf petiole length and a reduction in leaf angle. These leaf traits are associated with leafy head formation. Further testing of a SNP (T/C) in BrBRX.2 confirmed that this allele in the heading accessions was strongly associated with the leaf-heading trait of B. rapa. Our results revealed that all three BrBRX genes may be involved in the leaf-heading trait, but they may have functionally diverged on the basis of their differential expression.