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PeerJ. 2018 Dec 4;6:e6023. doi: 10.7717/peerj.6023. eCollection 2018.

Molecular evolution and expression divergence of three key Met biosynthetic genes in plants: CGS, HMT and MMT.

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College of Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Zhejiang University of Technology, Hangzhou, China.
Institute of Crop Science, Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Hangzhou, China.


Methionine (Met) is an essential sulfur-containing amino acid in animals. Cereal and legume crops with limiting levels of Met represent the major food and feed sources for animals. In plants, cystathionine gamma-synthase (CGS), methionine methyltransferase (MMT) and homocysteine methyltransferase (HMT) are committing enzymes synergistically synthesizing Met through the aspartate (Asp) family pathway and the S-methylmethionine (SMM) cycle. The biological functions of CGS, MMT and HMT genes have been respectively studied, whereas their evolution patterns and their contribution to the evolution of Met biosynthetic pathway in plants are unknown. In the present study, to reveal their evolution patterns and contribution, the evolutionary relationship of CGS, MMT and HMT gene families were reconstructed. The results showed that MMTs began in the ancestor of the land plants and kept conserved during evolution, while the CGSs and HMTs had diverged. The CGS genes were divided into two branches in the angiosperms, Class 1 and Class 2, of which Class 2 only contained the grasses. However, the HMT genes diverged into Class 1 and Class 2 in all of the seed plants. Further, the gene structure analysis revealed that the CGSs, MMTs and HMTs were relatively conserved except for the CGSs in Class 2. According to the expression of CGS, HMT and MMT genes in soybeans, as well as in the database of soybean, rice and Arabidopsis, the expression patterns of the MMTs were shown to be consistently higher in leaves than in seeds. However, the expression of CGSs and HMTs had diverged, either expressed higher in leaves or seeds, or showing fluctuated expression. Additionally, the functions of HMT genes had diverged into the repair of S-adenosylmethionine and SMM catabolism during the evolution. The results indicated that the CGS and HMT genes have experienced partial subfunctionalization. Finally, given the evolution and expression of the CGS, HMT and MMT gene families, we built the evolutionary model of the Met biosynthetic pathways in plants. The model proposed that the Asp family pathway existed in all the plant lineages, while the SMM cycle began in the ancestor of land plants and then began to diverge in the ancestor of seed plants. The model suggested that the evolution of Met biosynthetic pathway is basically consistent with that of plants, which might be vital to the growth and development of different botanical lineages during evolution.


CGS gene family; Evolution; Gene expression; HMT gene family; MMT gene family; Methionine biosynthesis

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