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Plant Physiol. 2004 Aug;135(4):2207-19. Epub 2004 Aug 6.

Functional characterization of OsMADS18, a member of the AP1/SQUA subfamily of MADS box genes.

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Dipartimento di Biologia, Università degli Studi di Milano, 20133 Milan, Italy.


MADS box transcription factors controlling flower development have been isolated and studied in a wide variety of organisms. These studies have shown that homologous MADS box genes from different species often have similar functions. OsMADS18 from rice (Oryza sativa) belongs to the phylogenetically defined AP1/SQUA group. The MADS box genes of this group have functions in plant development, like controlling the transition from vegetative to reproductive growth, determination of floral organ identity, and regulation of fruit maturation. In this paper we report the functional analysis of OsMADS18. This rice MADS box gene is widely expressed in rice with its transcripts accumulated to higher levels in meristems. Overexpression of OsMADS18 in rice induced early flowering, and detailed histological analysis revealed that the formation of axillary shoot meristems was accelerated. Silencing of OsMADS18 using an RNA interference approach did not result in any visible phenotypic alteration, indicating that OsMADS18 is probably redundant with other MADS box transcription factors. Surprisingly, overexpression of OsMADS18 in Arabidopsis caused a phenotype closely resembling the ap1 mutant. We show that the ap1 phenotype is not caused by down-regulation of AP1 expression. Yeast two-hybrid experiments showed that some of the natural partners of AP1 interact with OsMADS18, suggesting that the OsMADS18 overexpression phenotype in Arabidopsis is likely to be due to the subtraction of AP1 partners from active transcription complexes. Thus, when compared to AP1, OsMADS18 during evolution seems to have conserved the mechanistic properties of protein-protein interactions, although it cannot complement the AP1 function.

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