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Plant Physiol. 2009 Feb;149(2):625-41. doi: 10.1104/pp.108.130591. Epub 2008 Nov 19.

Tissue-specific expression patterns of Arabidopsis NF-Y transcription factors suggest potential for extensive combinatorial complexity.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599, USA.


All aspects of plant and animal development are controlled by complex networks of transcription factors. Transcription factors are essential for converting signaling inputs, such as changes in daylength, into complex gene regulatory outputs. While some transcription factors control gene expression by binding to cis-regulatory elements as individual subunits, others function in a combinatorial fashion. How individual subunits of combinatorial transcription factors are spatially and temporally deployed (e.g. expression-level, posttranslational modifications and subcellular localization) has profound effects on their control of gene expression. In the model plant Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana), we have identified 36 Nuclear Factor Y (NF-Y) transcription factor subunits (10 NF-YA, 13 NF-YB, and 13 NF-YC subunits) that can theoretically combine to form 1,690 unique complexes. Individual plant subunits have functions in flowering time, embryo maturation, and meristem development, but how they combine to control these processes is unknown. To assist in the process of defining unique NF-Y complexes, we have created promoter:beta-glucuronidase fusion lines for all 36 Arabidopsis genes. Here, we show NF-Y expression patterns inferred from these promoter:beta-glucuronidase lines for roots, light- versus dark-grown seedlings, rosettes, and flowers. Additionally, we review the phylogenetic relationships and examine protein alignments for each NF-Y subunit family. The results are discussed with a special emphasis on potential roles for NF-Y subunits in photoperiod-controlled flowering time.

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