Antagonistic roles for KNOX1 and KNOX2 genes in patterning the land plant body plan following an ancient gene duplication

Chihiro Furumizu, John Paul Alvarez, Keiko Sakakibara, John L Bowman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Neofunctionalization following gene duplication is thought to be one of the key drivers in generating evolutionary novelty. A gene duplication in a common ancestor of land plants produced two classes of KNOTTED-like TALE homeobox genes, class I (KNOX1) and class II (KNOX2). KNOX1 genes are linked to tissue proliferation and maintenance of meristematic potentials of flowering plant and moss sporophytes, and modulation of KNOX1 activity is implicated in contributing to leaf shape diversity of flowering plants. While KNOX2 function has been shown to repress the gametophytic (haploid) developmental program during moss sporophyte (diploid) development, little is known about KNOX2 function in flowering plants, hindering syntheses regarding the relationship between two classes of KNOX genes in the context of land plant evolution. Arabidopsis plants harboring loss-of-function KNOX2 alleles exhibit impaired differentiation of all aerial organs and have highly complex leaves, phenocopying gain-of-function KNOX1 alleles. Conversely, gain-of-function KNOX2 alleles in conjunction with a presumptive heterodimeric BELL TALE homeobox partner suppressed SAM activity in Arabidopsis and reduced leaf complexity in the Arabidopsis relative Cardamine hirsuta, reminiscent of loss-of-function KNOX1 alleles. Little evidence was found indicative of epistasis or mutual repression between KNOX1 and KNOX2 genes. KNOX proteins heterodimerize with BELL TALE homeobox proteins to form functional complexes, and contrary to earlier reports based on in vitro and heterologous expression, we find high selectivity between KNOX and BELL partners in vivo. Thus, KNOX2 genes confer opposing activities rather than redundant roles with KNOX1 genes, and together they act to direct the development of all above-ground organs of the Arabidopsis sporophyte. We infer that following the KNOX1/KNOX2 gene duplication in an ancestor of land plants, neofunctionalization led to evolution of antagonistic biochemical activity thereby facilitating the evolution of more complex sporophyte transcriptional networks, providing plasticity for the morphological evolution of land plant body plans.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1004980
Number of pages24
JournalPLoS Genetics
Volume11
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015

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