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Open Access Research article

The maize INDETERMINATE1 flowering time regulator defines a highly conserved zinc finger protein family in higher plants

Joseph Colasanti1*, Reynald Tremblay1, Ada YM Wong1, Viktoriya Coneva1, Akiko Kozaki12 and Barbara K Mable3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1, Canada

2 Department of Biology, Shizuoka University, Ohya 836, Shizuoka, Japan

3 Division of Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, Scotland, UK

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BMC Genomics 2006, 7:158  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-7-158

Published: 19 June 2006

Abstract

Background

The maize INDETERMINATE1 gene, ID1, is a key regulator of the transition to flowering and the founding member of a transcription factor gene family that encodes a protein with a distinct arrangement of zinc finger motifs. The zinc fingers and surrounding sequence make up the signature ID domain (IDD), which appears to be found in all higher plant genomes. The presence of zinc finger domains and previous biochemical studies showing that ID1 binds to DNA suggests that members of this gene family are involved in transcriptional regulation.

Results

Comparison of IDD genes identified in Arabidopsis and rice genomes, and all IDD genes discovered in maize EST and genomic databases, suggest that ID1 is a unique member of this gene family. High levels of sequence similarity amongst all IDD genes from maize, rice and Arabidopsis suggest that they are derived from a common ancestor. Several unique features of ID1 suggest that it is a divergent member of the maize IDD family. Although no clear ID1 ortholog was identified in the Arabidopsis genome, highly similar genes that encode proteins with identity extending beyond the ID domain were isolated from rice and sorghum. Phylogenetic comparisons show that these putative orthologs, along with maize ID1, form a group separate from other IDD genes. In contrast to ID1 mRNA, which is detected exclusively in immature leaves, several maize IDD genes showed a broad range of expression in various tissues. Further, Western analysis with an antibody that cross-reacts with ID1 protein and potential orthologs from rice and sorghum shows that all three proteins are detected in immature leaves only.

Conclusion

Comparative genomic analysis shows that the IDD zinc finger family is highly conserved among both monocots and dicots. The leaf-specific ID1 expression pattern distinguishes it from other maize IDD genes examined. A similar leaf-specific localization pattern was observed for the putative ID1 protein orthologs from rice and sorghum. These similarities between ID1 and closely related genes in other grasses point to possible similarities in function.