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Open Access Research article

Molecular population genetics and gene expression analysis of duplicated CBF genes of Arabidopsis thaliana

Yen-Heng Lin1, Shih-Ying Hwang2, Po-Yen Hsu1, Yu-Chung Chiang3, Chun-Lin Huang1, Chun-Neng Wang4 and Tsan-Piao Lin1*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Plant Biology, National Taiwan University, Taipei 10617, Taiwan

2 Department of Life Sciences, National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei 10610, Taiwan

3 Department of Life Science, Pingtung University of Science and Technology, Pingtung 912, Taiwan

4 Department of Life Sciences, National Taiwan University, Taipei 10617, Taiwan

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BMC Plant Biology 2008, 8:111  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-8-111

Published: 7 November 2008

Abstract

Background

CBF/DREB duplicate genes are widely distributed in higher plants and encode transcriptional factors, or CBFs, which bind a DNA regulatory element and impart responsiveness to low temperatures and dehydration.

Results

We explored patterns of genetic variations of CBF1, -2, and -3 from 34 accessions of Arabidopsis thaliana. Molecular population genetic analyses of these genes indicated that CBF2 has much reduced nucleotide diversity in the transcriptional unit and promoter, suggesting that CBF2 has been subjected to a recent adaptive sweep, which agrees with reports of a regulatory protein of CBF2. Investigating the ratios of Ka/Ks between all paired CBF paralogus genes, high conservation of the AP2 domain was observed, and the major divergence of proteins was the result of relaxation in two regions within the transcriptional activation domain which was under positive selection after CBF duplication. With respect to the level of CBF gene expression, several mutated nucleotides in the promoters of CBF3 and -1 of specific ecotypes might be responsible for its consistently low expression.

Conclusion

We concluded from our data that important evolutionary changes in CBF1, -2, and -3 may have primarily occurred at the level of gene regulation as well as in protein function.