The floral homeotic protein APETALA2 recognizes and acts through an AT-rich sequence element
Development 2012 139: 1978-1986
Dinh TT, Girke T, Liu X, Yant L, Schmid M, Chen X
Cell fate specification in development requires transcription factors for proper regulation of gene expression. In Arabidopsis, transcription factors encoded by four classes of homeotic genes, A, B, C and E, act in a combinatorial manner to control proper floral organ identity. The A-class gene APETALA2 (AP2) promotes sepal and petal identities in whorls 1 and 2 and restricts the expression of the C-class gene AGAMOUS (AG) from whorls 1 and 2. However, it is unknown how AP2 performs these functions. Unlike the other highly characterized floral homeotic proteins containing MADS domains, AP2 has two DNA-binding domains referred to as the AP2 domains and its DNA recognition sequence is still unknown. Here, we show that the second AP2 domain in AP2 binds a non-canonical AT-rich target sequence, and, using a GUS reporter system, we demonstrate that the presence of this sequence in the AG second intron is important for the restriction of AG expression in vivo. Furthermore, we show that AP2 binds the AG second intron and directly regulates AG expression through this sequence element. Computational analysis reveals that the binding site is highly conserved in the second intron of AG orthologs throughout Brassicaceae. By uncovering a biologically relevant AT-rich target sequence, this work shows that AP2 domains have wide-ranging target specificities and provides a missing link in the mechanisms that underlie flower development. It also sets the foundation for understanding the basis of the broad biological functions of AP2 in Arabidopsis, as well as the divergent biological functions of AP2 orthologs in dicotyledonous plants.
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