Petals of the monocot Phalaenopsis aphrodite (Orchidaceae) possess conical epidermal cells on their adaxial surfaces, and a large amount of cuticular wax is deposited on them to serve as a primary barrier against biotic and abiotic stresses. It has been widely reported that subgroup 9A members of the R2R3-MYB gene family, MIXTA and MIXTA-like in eudicots, act to regulate the differentiation of conical epidermal cells. However, the molecular pathways underlying conical epidermal cell development and cuticular wax biosynthesis in monocot petals remain unclear. Here, we characterized two subgroup 9A R2R3-MYB genes, PaMYB9A1 and PaMYB9A2 (PaMYB9A1/2), from P. aphrodite through the transient overexpression of their coding sequences and corresponding chimeric repressors in developing petals. We showed that PaMYB9A1/2 function to coordinate conical epidermal cell development and cuticular wax biosynthesis. In addition, we identified putative targets of PaMYB9A1/2 through comparative transcriptome analyses, revealing that PaMYB9A1/2 acts to regulate the expression of cell wall-associated and wax biosynthetic genes. Furthermore, a chemical composition analysis of cuticular wax showed that even-chain n-alkanes and odd-chain primary alcohols are the main chemical constituents of cuticular wax deposited on petals, which is inconsistent with the well-known biosynthetic pathways of cuticular wax, implying a distinct biosynthetic pathway occurring in P. aphrodite flowers. These results reveal that the function of subgroup 9A R2R3-MYB family genes in regulating the differentiation of epidermal cells is largely conserved in monocots and dicots. Furthermore, both PaMYB9A1/2 have evolved additional functions controlling the biosynthesis of cuticular wax.
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