Functional analysis of the Antirrhinum floral homeotic DEFICIENS gene in vivo and in vitro by using a temperature-sensitive mutant

S Zachgo, E de A Silva, P Motte, W Tröbner, H Saedler, Z Schwarz-Sommer
Development 1995, 121 (9): 2861-75
Flowers of the temperature-sensitive DEFICIENS (DEF) mutant, def-101, display sepaloid petals and carpelloid stamens when grown at 26 degrees C, the non-permissive temperature. In contrast, when cultivated under permissive conditions at 15 degrees C, the morphology of def-101 flowers resembles that of the wild type. Temperature shift experiments during early and late phases of flower development revealed that second and third whorl organ development is differentially sensitive to changes in DEF expression. In addition, early DEF expression seems to control the spatially correct initiation of fourth whorl organ development. Reduction of the def-101 gene dosage differentially affects organogenesis in adjacent whorls: at the lower temperature development of petals in the second whorl and initiation of carpels in the centre of the flower is not affected while third whorl organogenesis follows the mutant (carpelloid) pattern. The possible contribution of accessory factors to organ-specific DEF functions is discussed. In situ analyses of mRNA and protein expression patterns during def-101 flower development at 15 degrees C and at 26 degrees C support previously proposed combinatorial regulatory interactions between the MADS-box proteins DEF and GLOBOSA (GLO), and provide evidence that the autoregulatory control of DEF and GLO expression by the DEF/GLO heterodimer starts after initiation of all organ primordia. Immunolocalisation revealed that both proteins are located in the nucleus. Interestingly, higher growth temperature affects the stability of both the DEF-101 and GLO proteins in vivo. In vitro DNA binding studies suggest that the temperature sensitivity of the def-101 mutant is due to an altered heterodimerisation/DNA-binding capability of the DEF-101 protein, conditioned by the deletion of one amino acid within the K-box, a protein region thought to be involved in protein-protein interaction. In addition, we introduce a mutant allele of GLO, glo-confusa, where insertion of one amino acid impairs the hydrophobic carboxy-terminal region of the MADS-box, but which confers no strong phenotypic changes to the flower. The strong mutant phenotype of flowers of def-101/glo-conf double mutants when grown in the cold represents genetic evidence for heterodimerisation between DEF and GLO in vivo. The potential to dissect structural and functional domains of MADS-box transcription factors is discussed.

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