FIE and CURLY LEAF polycomb proteins interact in the regulation of homeobox gene expression during sporophyte development


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The Arabidopsis FERTILIZATION-INDEPENDENT ENDOSPERM (FIE) polycomb group (PcG) protein, a WD40 homologue of Drosophila extra sex comb (ESC), regulates endosperm and embryo development and represses flowering during embryo and seedling development. As fie alleles are not transmitted maternally, homozygous mutant plants cannot be obtained. To study FIE function during the entire plant life cycle, we used Arabidopsis FIE co-suppressed plants. Low FIE level in these plants produced dramatic morphological aberrations, including loss of apical dominance, curled leaves, early flowering and homeotic conversion of leaves, flower organs and ovules into carpel-like structures. These morphological aberrations are similar to those exhibited by plants overexpressing AGAMOUS (AG) or CURLY LEAF (clf) mutants. Furthermore, the aberrant leaf morphology of FIE-silenced and clf plants correlates with de-repression of the class I KNOTTED-like homeobox (KNOX) genes including KNOTTED-like from Arabidopsis thaliana 2 (KNAT2) and SHOOTMERISTEMLESS (STM), whereas BREVIPEDICELLUS (BP) was upregulated in FIE-silenced plants, but not in the clf mutant. Thus, FIE is essential for the control of shoot and leaf development. Yeast two-hybrid and pull-down assays demonstrate that FIE interacts with CLF. Collectively, the morphological characteristics, together with the molecular and biochemical data presented in this work, strongly suggest that in plants, as in mammals and insects, PcG proteins control expression of homeobox genes. Our findings demonstrate that the versatility of the plant FIE function, which is derived from association with different SET (SU (VAR)3-9, E (Z), Trithorax) domain PcG proteins, results in differential regulation of gene expression throughout the plant life cycle.