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Constitutive expression of two apple (Malus x domestica Borkh.) homolog genes of LIKE HETEROCHROMATIN PROTEIN1 affects flowering time and whole-plant growth in transgenic Arabidopsis

Mimida, Naozumi, Kidou, Shin-ichiro, Kotoda, Nobuhiro
Molecular genetics and genomics 2007 v.278 no.3 pp. 295-305
Arabidopsis, Malus domestica, apples, breeding, epigenetics, flowering, fruit trees, gene expression, genes, growing season, heterochromatin, juveniles, mutants, nuclear localization signals, perennials, phenotype, reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, transgenic plants
Fruit trees, such as apple (Malus x domestica Borkh.), are woody perennial plants with a long juvenile phase. The biological analysis for the regulation of flowering time provides insights into the reduction of juvenile phase and the acceleration of breeding in fruit trees. In Arabidopsis, LIKE HETEROCHROMATIN PROTEIN1 (LHP1) is involved in epigenetic silencing of the target genes such as flowering genes. We isolated and characterized twin apple LHP1 homolog genes, MdLHP1a and MdLHP1b. These genes may have been generated as a result of ancient genome duplication. Although the putative MdLHP1 proteins showed lower similarity to any other known plant LHP1 homologs, a chromo domain, a chromo shadow domain, and the nuclear localization signal motifs were highly conserved among them. RT-PCR analysis showed that MdLHP1a and MdLHP1b were expressed constantly in developing shoot apices of apple trees throughout the growing season. Constitutive expression of MdLHP1a or MdLHP1b could compensate for the pleiotropic phenotype of lhp1/tfl2 mutant, suggesting that apple LHP1 homolog genes are involved in the regulation of flowering time and whole-plant growth. Based on these results, LHP1 homolog genes might have rapidly evolved among plant species, but the protein functions were conserved, at least between Arabidopsis and apple.