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Curr Biol. 2000 Nov 30;10(23):1535-8.

Interaction of the Arabidopsis polycomb group proteins FIE and MEA mediates their common phenotypes.

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Institute of Plant Biology, University of Zürich, CH-8008,., Zürich, Switzerland.


Genes of the FERTILISATION INDEPENDENT SEED (FIS) class regulate cell proliferation during reproductive development in Arabidopsis [1-5]. The FIS genes FERTILISATION INDEPENDENT ENDOSPERM (FIE) and MEDEA (MEA) encode homologs of animal Polycomb group (Pc-G) proteins, transcriptional regulators that modify chromatin structure and are thought to form multimeric complexes [3-11]. To test whether similarities in fis mutant phenotypes reflect interactions between their protein products, we characterised FIE RNA and protein localisation in vivo, and FIE protein interactions in yeast and in vitro. Expression of FIE mRNA overlaps with that of MEA during embryo sac and seed development and is unaffected in mea mutants. Results from the yeast two-hybrid system and an in vitro pull-down assay indicate that MEA and FIE proteins interact. The relevance of this interaction in vivo is supported by the finding that FIE and MEA co-localise in the nucleus in transfected plant cells. Interaction of MEA and FIE is mediated by the amino-terminal region of MEA. Despite sequence divergence in this domain, MEA can interact with its corresponding animal partner Extrasexcombs (ESC) in the yeast two-hybrid system. We conclude that FIE and MEA act together as part of a multimeric complex and that this accounts for the similarities in mutant phenotypes. We propose that an ancient mechanism for chromatin modification has been independently recruited to different developmental processes in the two kingdoms.

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