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TM8 represses developmental timing in Nicotiana benthamiana and has functionally diversified in angiosperms

Coenen, Heleen, Viaene, Tom, Vandenbussche, Michiel, Geuten, Koen
BMC plant biology 2018 v.18 no.1 pp. 129
Nicotiana benthamiana, Petunia hybrida, Solanum, evolution, flowering, gene deletion, gene silencing, genes, knockout mutants, phenotype, tomatoes, transgenic plants, viruses
BACKGROUND: MADS-box genes are key regulators of plant reproductive development and members of most lineages of this gene family have been extensively studied. However, the function and diversification of the ancient TM8 lineage remains elusive to date. The available data suggest a possible function in flower development in tomato and fast evolution through numerous gene loss events in flowering plants. RESULTS: We show the broad conservation of TM8 within angiosperms and find that in contrast to other MADS-box gene lineages, no gene duplicates have been retained after major whole genome duplication events. Through knock-down of NbTM8 by virus induced gene silencing in Nicotiana benthamiana, we show that NbTM8 represses miR172 together with another MADS-box gene, SHORT VEGETATIVE PHASE (NbSVP). In the closely related species Petunia hybrida, PhTM8 is not expressed under the conditions we investigated and consistent with this, a knock-out mutant did not show a phenotype. Finally, we generated transgenic tomato plants in which TM8 was silenced or ectopically expressed, but these plants did not display a clear phenotype. Therefore, no clear function could be confirmed for Solanum lycopersium. CONCLUSIONS: While the presence of TM8 is generally conserved, it remains difficult to propose a general function in angiosperms. Based on all the available data to date, supplemented with our own results, TM8 function seems to have diversified quickly throughout angiosperms and acts as repressor of miR172 in Nicotiana benthamiana, together with NbSVP.