Van Gogh’s Sunflowers Were Mutants

There are some pictures that arouse great interest in most people. Among these works we have Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, Velazquez’s Las Meninas, or The Scream by Munch. Also arouse the interest of scientists who study these pieces from their perspective.

Van Gogh’s sunflowers were mutants

There are some pictures that arouse great interest in most people. Among these works we have Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, Velazquez’s Las Meninas, or The Scream by Munch. Also arouse the interest of scientists who study these pieces from their perspective.
This is what happened to Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. In this table, we can see a vase with fifteen sunflowers, flowers have an unusual appearance that aroused the interest of scientists. Did they belong these flowers to a special variety, or the Dutch artist reinterpreted reality? In the latest issue of the journal PLoS Genetics published an article which gives the answer to this question: the Van Gogh painted sunflowers were mutants.

Actually the sunflowers are not flowers but inflorescences, a set of flowers in a bouquet together to form a single structure. In a normal sunflower, the outer part consists of “petals” flat and long, and the interior is composed of small tubular flowers. Those in the famous painting have many more “petals” – which actually are also flowers, than usual.
The difference is in a gene called HaCYC2c. This gene is active in the exterior flowers, giving them the appearance of “petal”, and inactive inside. When enabled in the interior, there are several bands of petals, which gives the sunflower it looks in the picture.
The method by which researchers have carried out the study is interesting. The first thing you have done is to obtain copies of different crop varieties, both traditional as those with more “petals” than expected. Following the same technique used Gregor Medel, discoverer of the gene, have been crossing the varieties to determine if the flowers are “petals” is a dominant or recessive.

Thus, the researchers found that the character “petal” is dominant, and it is sufficient that the flowers appear to take this form. Using molecular genetic techniques were able to show that in the traditional varieties of sunflowers, the gene is active HaCYC2c on the outside and inactive in others. In contrast, sunflower varieties like those painted by Van Gogh, the gene is active in many more areas, giving them the appearance in which they appear in the box.
The fact that The Sunflowers reflects a mutant may seem little more than a curiosity. However, this study has economic, as these flowers are very popular in the markup. The varieties of sunflower petals with several bands, such as the “teddy bear sunflowers” are very popular in gardens and as cut flowers.

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