LITTLELEAF (LL) encodes a WD40 repeat domain‐containing protein associated with organ size variation in cucumber
Plants employ tight genetic control to integrate intrinsic growth signals and environmental cues to enable organs to grow to a defined size. Many genes contributing to cell proliferation and/or cell expansion, and consequently organ size control, have been identified, but the regulatory pathways are poorly understood. Here we have characterized a cucumber littleleaf (ll) mutant which exhibits smaller organ sizes but more lateral branches than the wild type. The small organ size in ll was due to a reduction of both cell number and cell size. Quantitative trait locus (QTL) analyses revealed co‐localization of major‐effect QTLs for fruit size, fruit and seed weight, as well as number of lateral branches, with the LL locus indicating pleiotropic effects of the ll mutation. We demonstrate that LL is an ortholog of Arabidopsis STERILE APETALA (SAP) encoding a WD40 repeat domain‐containing protein; the mutant protein differed from the wild type by a single amino acid substitution (W264G) in the second WD40 repeat. W264 was conserved in 34 vascular plant genomes examined. Phylogenetic analysis suggested that LL originated before the emergence of flowering plants but was lost in the grass genome lineage. The function of LL in organ size control was confirmed by its overexpression in transgenic cucumbers and ectopic expression in Arabidopsis. Transcriptome profiling in LL and ll bulks revealed a complex regulatory network for LL‐mediated organ size variation that involves several known organ size regulators and associated pathways. The data support LL as an important player in organ size control and lateral branch development in cucumber.
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