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Science 308 (5719): 260-263

Copyright © 2005 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

The Floral Regulator LEAFY Evolves by Substitutions in the DNA Binding Domain

Alexis Maizel,1,2 Maximilian A. Busch,2 Takako Tanahashi,3 Josip Perkovic,1 Masahiro Kato,3 Mitsuyasu Hasebe,4 Detlef Weigel1*

Abstract: The plant-specific transcription factor LEAFY controls general aspects of the life cycle in a basal plant, the moss Physcomitrella patens. In contrast, LEAFY has more specialized functions in angiosperms, where it specifically induces floral fate during the reproductive phase. This raises the question of a concomitant change in the biochemical function of LEAFY during the evolution of land plants. We report that the DNA binding domain of LEAFY, although largely conserved, has diverged in activity. On the contrary, other, more rapidly evolving portions of the protein have few effects on LEAFY activity.

1 Department of Molecular Biology, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, D-72076 Tübingen, Germany.
2 Plant Biology Laboratory, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.
3 Department of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Science, University of Tokyo, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan.
4 National Institute for Basic Biology, Okazaki 444-8585, Japan.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: weigel{at}

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