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Mol Biol Evol. 2010 May;27(5):1201-11. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msq005. Epub 2010 Jan 15.

MIKC* MADS-box proteins: conserved regulators of the gametophytic generation of land plants.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Plant Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Cologne, Germany. oliver.zobell@biologie.uni-osnabrueck.de


Land plants (embryophytes) are characterized by an alternation of two generations, the haploid gametophyte and the diploid sporophyte. The development of the small and simple male gametophyte of the flowering plant Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) critically depends on the action of five MIKC* group MCM1-AGAMOUS-DEFICIENS-SRF-box (MADS-box) proteins. In this study, these MIKC* MADS-box genes were isolated from land plants with relatively large and complex gametophyte bodies, namely the bryophytes. We found that although the gene family expanded in the mosses Sphagnum subsecundum, Physcomitrella patens, and Funaria hygrometrica, only a single homologue, Marchantia polymorpha MADS-box gene 1 (MpMADS1), has been retained in the liverwort M. polymorpha. Liverworts are the earliest diverging land plants, and so a comparison of MpMADS1 with its angiosperm homologues addresses the molecular evolution of an embryophyte-specific transcription factor over the widest phylogenetic distance. MpMADS1 was found to form a homodimeric DNA-binding complex, which is in contrast to the Arabidopsis proteins that are functional only as heterodimeric complexes. The M. polymorpha homodimer, nevertheless, recognizes the same DNA sequences as its angiosperm counterparts and can functionally replace endogenous MIKC* complexes to a significant extent when heterologously expressed in Arabidopsis pollen. The 11 MIKC* homologues from the moss F. hygrometrica are highly and almost exclusively expressed in the gametophytic generation. Taken together, these findings suggest that MIKC* MADS-box proteins have largely preserved molecular roles in the gametophytic generation of land plants.

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