The complex inflorescence architecture in Asteraceae is characterized by the presence of morphologically distinct flowers having specialized functions. In gerbera, the presence of three different flower types (ray, trans and disc), intricate inflorescence organization and an underlying complex molecular control makes it an excellent target for research on functional genomics, flower development and evolution.
The genes governing flower development have been shown to have undergone sub- and neo-functionalization in gerbera leading to morphological features that are not present in the conventional model plant species. The genes encoding the CYC2 subclade of CYC/TB1-like TCP domain transcription factors are known to regulate the flower type identity in gerbera inflorescence.
Although most genes of the CYC2 subclade have demonstrated functional redundancy, one such gene, GhCYC5, was found to have diverged function in regulating rate of initiation of flowers. A study aimed at investigating and affirming the function of GhCYC5 by studying two RNAi lines.
Phenotypic analysis of the RNAi inflorescences showed that the length of ray ligules was significantly decreased along with the number of disc flowers and the number of involucral bracts. However, gene expression analysis could not confirm the downregulation of GhCYC5 in the RNAi lines mainly due to low endogenous expression of the gene. However, GhCYC3, another CYC2 clade gene was found to be downregulated due to the off-target silencing effect of the RNAi product and the observed phenotype was associated with suppression of GhCYC3. Further, the role of GhCYC5 in regulating the rate of involucral bract and flower initiation was unclear based on the SEM imaging and expression analysis of the inflorescence meristem, and still requires further studies.