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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name



Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Edward M. Golenberg


The evolution of sex determination in plants is a central problem in plant evolutionary biology. Currently, there have been studies in which some sex determination genes are identified yet we do not know most of the alternative downstream pathways that lead to developmental differences in plants that exhibit sexual dimorphism. Addressing this gap in knowledge is important as it will give insight into the genetic regulation of developmental processes in unisexual flowers and in angiosperm flowers in general. The investigation into the link between the differential expression patters of genetic pathways and the differential expression in floral development involves the differential expression of C2H2 Zinc Finger Proteins as they relate to the differential formation of floral organ primordia in male and female Spinacia oleracea flowers. Our central hypothesis is that the C2H2 Zinc Finger Proteins interact with downstream partners in the floral meristem termination pathway to potentially induce the differential morphogenesis of organ primordia between male and female flowers leading to sexual dimorphism in spinach. To test this hypothesis, molecular genetics tools are utilized to quantify SpZFP3, SpZFP7, SpZFP8 temporal and spatial expression patterns, along with functional testing. Preliminary studies into characterizing these three C2H2 Zinc Finger genes through phenotypic analysis suggests that reduction in expression of C2H2 Zinc Finger Proteins in general leads to loss-of-determinacy in the axillary meristem, inflorescence meristem, and potentially the floral meristem in addition to homeotic whorl transformations in C2H2 Zinc Finger Proteins single knockdowns in S. oleracea. Preliminary results suggest there exists specialization among these three candidate genes and multiple downstream targets, which could result in pleiotropic effects.

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