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J Mol Evol. 2006 Apr;62(4):434-45. Epub 2006 Mar 22.

The ATL gene family from Arabidopsis thaliana and Oryza sativa comprises a large number of putative ubiquitin ligases of the RING-H2 type.

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Departamento de Ingeniería Genética de Plantas, Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados del IPN Unidad Irapuato, Apartado Postal 629, Irapuato, Gto., 36500, México.


Ubiquitin ligases play an important regulatory role in the control of protein degradation processes via the ubiquitin/26S proteasome pathway in eukaryotes. These enzymes participate in substrate specification and mediate the transfer of ubiquitin to target proteins. A large number of ubiquitin ligases are predicted in the eukaryotes whose genomes have been sequenced; in Arabidopsis thaliana more than 1300 genes are thought to encode ubiquitin ligases. At least three classes of ubiquitin ligases are present in Arabidopsis, one of which comprises about 470 RING zinc-finger domain proteins. Within this class we have characterized the ATL family that encodes a RING-H2 finger. We identified 80 members of this family in A. thaliana and 121 in Oryza sativa. About 60% of the rice ATLs are clustered with A. thaliana ATLs, and in many cases the gene products showed sequence similarities beyond the ATL's conserved features, suggesting that they could be orthologous genes. Ninety percent of the ATLs are intronless genes, suggesting that the structure of the basic ATL protein may have evolved as a functional module. We carried out a survey of T-DNA insertions in 30% of the Arabidopsis ATL genes and screened for possible phenotypes. Four of these genes are likely to be essential for viability, since homozygous plants for the T-DNA insertion were not recovered. One of them, ATL8, is mainly expressed in young siliques, suggesting a role during embryogenesis. We also recovered a line carrying a T-DNA insertion in ATL43 that showed an ABA-insensitive phenotype, suggesting a role of this gene in the ABA response. The organization of ATLs in Arabidopsis and rice in this study will be a valuable comprehensive guide for this multigene family.

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