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Clarkia gracilis

How Flowers Change Their Spots

Changes in gene expression helped Clarkia flowers shift their spots, scientists say. Some Clarkia species have a single reddish spot near the base of each petal, some have a spot in the center, and others have no spots. Duke biologists Peng Jiang and Mark Rausher discovered that the shifts were due to two small genetic changes in a region of the Clarkia genome that does not code for proteins, but controls nearby genes. Their study shows that just a few changes in regulatory regions may be all that is needed to “re-wire” gene expression and produce new flower color patterns in plants.