Functional divergence of the TFL1-like gene family in Arabidopsis revealed by characterization of a novel homologue

N Mimida, K Goto, Y Kobayashi, T Araki, J H Ahn, D Weigel, M Murata, F Motoyoshi, W Sakamoto
Genes to Cells: Devoted to Molecular & Cellular Mechanisms 2001, 6 (4): 327-36

BACKGROUND: The TERMINAL FLOWER 1 (TFL1) gene of Arabidopsis plays an important role in regulating flowering time and in maintaining the fate of inflorescence meristem (IM). TFL1 is a homologue of CENTRORADIALIS (CEN) from Antirrhinum, which is only involved in IM maintenance. Recent mutational studies and the genome project revealed that TFL1 belongs to a small gene family in Arabidopsis, in which functional divergence may have occurred among the members.

RESULTS: We found a new member of the TFL1 gene family, which is mapped on chromosome 2 of Arabidopsis. The predicted protein sequence encoded by this gene is more closely related to that of CEN than other Arabidopsis TFL1 homologues (and therefore named ATC for Arabidopsis thaliana CENTRORADIALIS homologue). Transgenic plants constitutively expressing the ATC gene (35S:ATC), in either wild-type or tfl1 mutant backgrounds, showed a phenotype similar to that observed in transgenic plants constitutively expressing the TFL1 gene. However, in contrast to TFL1, the expression of ATC was only detected in the hypocotyl of young plants, and not in the IM. In addition, an atc loss-of-function mutant, isolated by screening a T-DNA library, showed no phenotypes that were similar to those of tfl1 mutants.

CONCLUSION: The phenotypes of transgenic plants over-expressing ATC suggest that the ATC protein can functionally substitute for TFL1. However, the pattern and level of expression and the loss-of-function phenotype indicate that ATC does not participate in the regulation of IM identity, but rather has a role that is different from that of TFL1.

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