The AFL subfamily of B3 transcription factors: evolution and function in angiosperm seeds

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Seed development follows zygotic embryogenesis; during the maturation phase reserves accumulate and desiccation tolerance is acquired. This is tightly regulated at the transcriptional level and the AFL (ABI3/FUS3/LEC2) subfamily of B3 transcription factors (TFs) play a central role. They alter hormone biosynthesis, mainly in regards to abscisic acid and gibberellins, and also regulate the expression of other TFs and/or modulate their downstream activity via protein-protein interactions. This review deals with the origin of AFL TFs, which can be traced back to non-vascular plants such as Physcomitrella patens and achieves foremost expansion in the angiosperms. In green algae, like the unicellular Chlamydomonas reinhardtii or the pluricellular Klebsormidium flaccidum, a single B3 gene and four B3 paralogous genes are annotated, respectively. However, none of them present with the structural features of the AFL subfamily, with the exception of the B3 DNA-binding domain. Phylogenetic analysis groups the AFL TFs into four Major Clusters of Ortologous Genes (MCOGs). The origin and function of these genes is discussed in view of their expression patterns and in the context of major regulatory interactions in seeds of monocotyledonous and dicotyledonous species.

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