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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Jan 20;106(3):835-40. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0812043106. Epub 2009 Jan 6.

Evolution of F-box genes in plants: different modes of sequence divergence and their relationships with functional diversification.

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State Key Laboratory of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xiangshan, Beijing 100093, China.


F-box proteins are substrate-recognition components of the Skp1-Rbx1-Cul1-F-box protein (SCF) ubiquitin ligases. In plants, F-box genes form one of the largest multigene superfamilies and control many important biological functions. However, it is unclear how and why plants have acquired a large number of F-box genes. Here we identified 692, 337, and 779 F-box genes in Arabidopsis, poplar and rice, respectively, and studied their phylogenetic relationships and evolutionary patterns. We found that the plant F-box superfamily can be divided into 42 families, each of which has a distinct domain organization. We also estimated the number of ancestral genes for each family and identified highly conservative versus divergent families. In conservative families, there has been little or no change in the number of genes since the divergence between eudicots and monocots approximately 145 million years ago. In divergent families, however, the numbers have increased dramatically during the same period. In two cases, the numbers of genes in extant species are >100 times greater than that in the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of the three species. Proteins encoded by highly conservative genes always have the same domain organization, suggesting that they interact with the same or similar substrates. In contrast, proteins of rapidly duplicating genes sometimes have quite different domain structures, mainly caused by unusually frequent shifts of exon-intron boundaries and/or frameshift mutations. Our results indicate that different F-box families, or different clusters of the same family, have experienced dramatically different modes of sequence divergence, apparently having resulted in adaptive changes in function.

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