Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Genetic architecture and evolution of the S locus supergene in Primula vulgaris

Li, Jinhong; Cocker, Jonathan M.; Wright, Jonathan; Webster, Margaret A.; McMullan, Mark; Dyer, Sarah; Swarbreck, David; Caccamo, Mario; Oosterhout, Cock van; Gilmartin, Philip M.


Jinhong Li

Jonathan M. Cocker

Jonathan Wright

Margaret A. Webster

Mark McMullan

Sarah Dyer

David Swarbreck

Mario Caccamo

Cock van Oosterhout

Philip M. Gilmartin


Darwin's studies on heterostyly in Primula described two floral morphs, pin and thrum, with reciprocal anther and stigma heights that promote insect-mediated cross-pollination. This key innovation evolved independently in several angiosperm families. Subsequent studies on heterostyly in Primula contributed to the foundation of modern genetic theory and the neo-Darwinian synthesis. The established genetic model for Primula heterostyly involves a diallelic S locus comprising several genes, with rare recombination events that result in self-fertile homostyle flowers with anthers and stigma at the same height. Here we reveal the S locus supergene as a tightly linked cluster of thrum-specific genes that are absent in pins. We show that thrums are hemizygous not heterozygous for the S locus, which suggests that homostyles do not arise by recombination between S locus haplotypes as previously proposed. Duplication of a floral homeotic gene 51.7 million years (Myr) ago, followed by its neofunctionalization, created the current S locus assemblage which led to floral heteromorphy in Primula. Our findings provide new insights into the structure, function and evolution of this archetypal supergene.


Li, J., Cocker, J. M., Wright, J., Webster, M. A., McMullan, M., Dyer, S., …Gilmartin, P. M. (2016). Genetic architecture and evolution of the S locus supergene in Primula vulgaris. Nature Plants, 2(12), Article 16188.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 31, 2016
Online Publication Date Dec 2, 2016
Publication Date 2016-12
Deposit Date Feb 8, 2021
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Journal Nature Plants
Print ISSN 2055-0278
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 2
Issue 12
Article Number 16188
Public URL
Publisher URL
Related Public URLs
Additional Information Received: 8 September 2015; Accepted: 31 October 2016; First Online: 2 December 2016; : The authors declare no competing financial interests.


Article (498 Kb)

Copyright Statement
©2020 The authors. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder

You might also like

Downloadable Citations