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Nucleic Acids Res. 1997 Nov 1;25(21):4173-80.

Analysis of TALE superclass homeobox genes (MEIS, PBC, KNOX, Iroquois, TGIF) reveals a novel domain conserved between plants and animals.

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Department of Cell Biology, Biozentrum, University of Basel, Klingelbergstrasse 70, CH-4056 Basel, Switzerland.


A new Caenorhabditis elegans homeobox gene, ceh-25, is described that belongs to the TALE superclass of atypical homeodomains, which are characterized by three extra residues between helix 1 and helix 2. ORF and PCR analysis revealed a novel type of alternative splicing within the homeobox. The alternative splicing occurs such that two different homeodomains can be generated, which differ in their first 25 amino acids. ceh-25 is an orthologue of the vertebrate Meis genes and it shares a new conserved domain of 130 amino acids with them. A thorough analysis of all TALE homeobox genes was performed and a new classification is presented. Four TALE classes are identified in animals: PBC, MEIS, TGIF and IRO (Iroquois); two types in fungi: the mating type genes (M-ATYP) and the CUP genes; and two types in plants: KNOX and BEL. The IRO class has a new conserved motif downstream of the homeodomain. For the KNOX class, a conserved domain, the KNOX domain, was defined upstream of the homeodomain. Comparison of the KNOX domain and the MEIS domain shows significant sequence similarity revealing the existence of an archetypal group of homeobox genes that encode two associated conserved domains. Thus TALE homeobox genes were already present in the common ancestor of plants, fungi and animals and represent a branch distinct from the typical homeobox genes.

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