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Mol Biol Evol. 2016 Jun;33(6):1486-501. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msw031. Epub 2016 Feb 22.

Evolutionary Dynamics of Floral Homeotic Transcription Factor Protein-Protein Interactions.

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Department of Biology, University of Massachusetts Amherst Department of Biology, Brigham Young University
Department of Biology, East Carolina University.
Department of Biology, Brigham Young University.
Department of Biology, University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Department of Biology, Brigham Young University


Protein-protein interactions (PPIs) have widely acknowledged roles in the regulation of development, but few studies have addressed the timing and mechanism of shifting PPIs over evolutionary history. The B-class MADS-box transcription factors, PISTILLATA (PI) and APETALA3 (AP3) are key regulators of floral development. PI-like (PI(L)) and AP3-like (AP3(L)) proteins from a number of plants, including Arabidopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis) and the grass Zea mays (maize), bind DNA as obligate heterodimers. However, a PI(L) protein from the grass relative Joinvillea can bind DNA as a homodimer. To ascertain whether Joinvillea PI(L) homodimerization is an anomaly or indicative of broader trends, we characterized PI(L) dimerization across the Poales and uncovered unexpected evolutionary lability. Both obligate B-class heterodimerization and PI(L) homodimerization have evolved multiple times in the order, by distinct molecular mechanisms. For example, obligate B-class heterodimerization in maize evolved very recently from PI(L) homodimerization. A single amino acid change, fixed during domestication, is sufficient to toggle one maize PI(L) protein between homodimerization and obligate heterodimerization. We detected a signature of positive selection acting on residues preferentially clustered in predicted sites of contact between MADS-box monomers and dimers, and in motifs that mediate MADS PPI specificity in Arabidopsis. Changing one positively selected residue can alter PI(L) dimerization activity. Furthermore, ectopic expression of a Joinvillea PI(L) homodimer in Arabidopsis can homeotically transform sepals into petals. Our results provide a window into the evolutionary remodeling of PPIs, and show that novel interactions have the potential to alter plant form in a context-dependent manner.


APETALA3; B-class MADS box genes; PISTILLATA; Poales; convergent molecular evolution; evolution of flower development.

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