Orchidaceae, one of the largest angiosperm families, has significant commercial value. Isolation of genes involved in orchid floral development and morphogenesis, scent production, and colouration will advance knowledge of orchid flower formation and facilitate breeding new varieties to increase the commercial value. With high-throughput virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS), this study identified five transcription factors involved in various aspects of flower morphogenesis in the orchid Phalaenopsis equestris. These genes are PeMADS1, PeMADS7, PeHB, PebHLH, and PeZIP. Silencing PeMADS1 and PebHLH resulted in reduced flower size together with a pelaloid column containing petal-like epidermal cells and alterations of epidermal cell arrangement in lip lateral lobes, respectively. Silencing PeMADS7, PeHB, and PeZIP alone resulted in abortion of the first three fully developed flower buds of an inflorescence, which indicates the roles of the genes in late flower development. Furthermore, double silencing PeMADS1 and PeMADS6, C-and B-class MADS-box genes, respectively, produced a combinatorial phenotype with two genes cloned in separate vectors. Both PeMADS1 and PeMADS6 are required to ensure the normal development of the lip and column as well as the cuticle formation on the floral epidermal cell surface. Thus, VIGS allows for unravelling the interaction between two classes of MADS transcription factors for dictating orchid floral morphogenesis.
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