We describe a locus, SUPERMAN, mutations in which result in extra stamens developing at the expense of the central carpels in the Arabidopsis thaliana flower. The development of superman flowers, from initial primordium to mature flower, is described by scanning electron microscopy. The development of doubly and triply mutant strains, constructed with superman alleles and previously identified homeotic mutations that cause alterations in floral organ identity, is also described. Essentially additive phenotypes are observed in superman agamous and superman apetala2 double mutants. The epistatic relationships observed between either apetala3 or pistillata and superman alleles suggest that the SUPERMAN gene product could be a regulator of these floral homeotic genes. To test this, the expression patterns of AGAMOUS and APETALA3 were examined in superman flowers. In wild-type flowers, APETALA3 expression is restricted to the second and third whorls where it is required for the specification of petals and stamens. In contrast, in superman flowers, APETALA3 expression expands to include most of the cells that would normally constitute the fourth whorl. This ectopic APETALA3 expression is proposed to be one of the causes of the development of the extra stamens in superman flowers. The spatial pattern of AGAMOUS expression remains unaltered in superman flowers as compared to wild-type flowers. Taken together these data indicate that one of the functions of the wild-type SUPERMAN gene product is to negatively regulate APETALA3 in the fourth whorl of the flower. In addition, superman mutants exhibit a loss of determinacy of the floral meristem, an effect that appears to be mediated by the APETALA3 and PISTILLATA gene products.

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