Transcript Profiling of MIKCc MADS-Box Genes Reveals Conserved and Novel Roles in Barley Inflorescence Development

Hendrik N.J. Kuijer, Neil J. Shirley, Shi F. Khor, Jin Shi, Julian Schwerdt, Dabing Zhang, Gang Li*, Rachel A. Burton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


MADS-box genes have a wide range of functions in plant reproductive development and grain production. The ABCDE model of floral organ development shows that MADS-box genes are central players in these events in dicotyledonous plants but the applicability of this model remains largely unknown in many grass crops. Here, we show that transcript analysis of all MIKCc MADS-box genes through barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) inflorescence development reveals co-expression groups that can be linked to developmental events. Thirty-four MIKCc MADS-box genes were identified in the barley genome and single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) scanning of 22,626 barley varieties revealed that the natural variation in the coding regions of these genes is low and the sequences have been extremely conserved during barley domestication. More detailed transcript analysis showed that MADS-box genes are generally expressed at key inflorescence developmental phases and across various floral organs in barley, as predicted by the ABCDE model. However, expression patterns of some MADS genes, for example HvMADS58 (AGAMOUS subfamily) and HvMADS34 (SEPALLATA subfamily), clearly deviate from predicted patterns. This places them outside the scope of the classical ABCDE model of floral development and demonstrates that the central tenet of antagonism between A- and C-class gene expression in the ABC model of other plants does not occur in barley. Co-expression across three correlation sets showed that specifically grouped members of the barley MIKCc MADS-box genes are likely to be involved in developmental events driving inflorescence meristem initiation, floral meristem identity and floral organ determination. Based on these observations, we propose a potential floral ABCDE working model in barley, where the classic model is generally upheld, but that also provides new insights into the role of MIKCc MADS-box genes in the developing barley inflorescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number705286
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
HK was supported by a University of Adelaide Beacon postgraduate scholarship, and the work was completed as part of the Australian Research Council Discovery Project (grant no. DP170103267 and DP170103352) and the Science and Research grant of Southwest University of Science and Technology (grant no. 19zx7146).

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 Kuijer, Shirley, Khor, Shi, Schwerdt, Zhang, Li and Burton.


  • ABC model
  • barley
  • floral organs
  • floret
  • inflorescence
  • MADS
  • meristems
  • transcript profiling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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