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Plant Biol (Stuttg). 2015 Nov;17(6):1123-34. doi: 10.1111/plb.12358. Epub 2015 Jul 1.

A GRAS-like gene of sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) alters the gibberellin content and axillary meristem outgrowth in transgenic Arabidopsis plants.

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Dipartimento di Scienze Agrarie, Alimentari ed Agro-ambientali, Università degli Studi di Pisa, Pisa, Italy.
Dipartimento di Biologia, Università degli Studi di Pisa, Pisa, Italy.
PlantLab, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, Pisa, Italy.
Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, Italy.


The GRAS proteins belong to a plant transcriptional regulator family that function in the regulation of plant growth and development. Despite their important roles, in sunflower only one GRAS gene (HaDella1) with the DELLA domain has been reported. Here, we provide a functional characterisation of a GRAS-like gene from Helianthus annuus (Ha-GRASL) lacking the DELLA motif. The Ha-GRASL gene contains an intronless open reading frame of 1,743 bp encoding 580 amino acids. Conserved motifs in the GRAS domain are detected, including VHIID, PFYRE, SAW and two LHR motifs. Within the VHII motif, the P-H-N-D-Q-L residues are entirely maintained. Phylogenetic analysis reveals that Ha-GRASL belongs to the SCARECROW LIKE4/7 (SCL4/7) subfamily of the GRAS consensus tree. Accumulation of Ha-GRASL mRNA at the adaxial boundaries from P6/P7 leaf primordia suggests a role of Ha-GRASL in the initiation of median and basal axillary meristems (AMs) of sunflower. When Ha-GRASL is over-expressed in Arabidopsis wild-type plants, the number of lateral bolts increases differently from untransformed plants. However, Ha-GRASL slightly affects the lateral suppressor (las-4-) mutation. Therefore, we hypothesise that Ha-GRASL and LAS are not functionally equivalent. The over-expression of Ha-GRASL reduces metabolic flow of gibberellins (GAs) in Arabidopsis and this modification could be relevant in AM development. Phylogenetic analysis includes LAS and SCL4/7 in the same major clade, suggesting a more recent separation of these genes with respect to other GRAS members. We propose that some features of their ancestor, as well as AM initiation and outgrowth, are partially retained in both LAS and SCL4/7.


Arabidopsis thaliana; Axillary meristems; GRAS transcriptional regulator family; Helianthus annuus; genetic transformation; gibberellins

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