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Mol Biol Evol. 2008 Aug;25(8):1581-92. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msn105. Epub 2008 May 2.

Duplication and functional diversification of HAP3 genes leading to the origin of the seed-developmental regulatory gene, LEAFY COTYLEDON1 (LEC1), in nonseed plant genomes.

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College of Life Sciences, Peking University, Beijing, China.


The HAP3 gene encodes a subunit of the CCAAT-box-binding factor (CBF), a highly conserved trimeric activator that recognizes and binds the ubiquitous CCAAT promoter element with high affinity. Two types of HAP3 gene have been identified in plant genomes. The LEAFY COTYLEDON1 (LEC1)-type HAP3 genes encode a functionally specialized subunit of CBF, which is expressed specifically in developing seeds. In contrast, most non-LEC1-type HAP3 genes are expressed in various tissues. It has been proposed that the LEC1-type HAP3 genes originated from the duplication and functional divergence of non-LEC1-type HAP3 genes. However, it is not yet known when this duplication event took place or whether the LEC1-type HAP3 genes appeared at the same time as the origin of seed plants. Here we describe a comprehensive comparison of the duplication patterns of HAP3 genes in different plant genomes. We recognize a major expansion of the HAP3 gene family accompanying the origin and early diversification of land plants and postulate that retrotransposition and other mechanisms of gene duplication have been involved in the expansion of the plant HAP3 gene family. We provide evidence that the LEC1-type HAP3 genes originated in nonseed vascular plant genomes and demonstrate that they are inductively expressed under drought stress in nonseed plants. These genes, however, were recruited to a novel regulatory network in the early stages of seed plant evolution and steadily expressed during seed development and maturation.

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