Determination of floral organ identity by Arabidopsis MADS domain homeotic proteins AP1, AP3, PI, and AG is independent of their DNA-binding specificity

J L Riechmann, E M Meyerowitz
Molecular Biology of the Cell 1997, 8 (7): 1243-59
The MADS domain homeotic proteins APETALA1 (AP1), APETALA3 (AP3), PISTILLATA (PI), and AGAMOUS (AG) combinatorially specify the identity of Arabidopsis floral organs. AP1/AP1, AG/AG, and AP3/PI dimers bind to similar CArG box sequences; thus, differences in DNA-binding specificity among these proteins do not seem to be the origin of their distinct organ identity properties. To assess the overall contribution that specific DNA binding could make to their biological specificity, we have generated chimeric genes in which the amino-terminal half of the MADS domain of AP1, AP3, PI, and AG was substituted by the corresponding sequences of human SRF and MEF2A proteins. In vitro DNA-binding assays reveal that the chimeric proteins acquired the respective, and distinct, DNA-binding specificity of SRF or MEF2A. However, ectopic expression of the chimeric genes reproduces the dominant gain-of-function phenotypes exhibited by plants ectopically expressing the corresponding Arabidopsis wild-type genes. In addition, both the SRF and MEF2 chimeric genes can complement the pertinent ap1-1, ap3-3, pi-1, or ag-3 mutations to a degree similar to that of AP1, AP3, PI, and AG when expressed under the control of the same promoter. These results indicate that determination of floral organ identity by the MADS domain homeotic proteins AP1, AP3, PI, and AG is independent of their DNA-binding specificity. In addition, the DNA-binding experiments show that either one of the two MADS domains of a dimer can be sufficient to confer a particular DNA-binding specificity to the complex and that sequences outside the amino-terminal basic region of the MADS domain can, in some cases, contribute to the DNA-binding specificity of the proteins.

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