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INCURVATA11 and CUPULIFORMIS2 Are Redundant Genes That Encode Epigenetic Machinery Components in Arabidopsis

All critical developmental and physiological events in a plant’s life cycle depend on the proper activation and repression of specific gene sets, and this often involves epigenetic mechanisms. Some Arabidopsis thaliana mutants with disorders of the epigenetic machinery exhibit pleiotropic defects, including incurved leaves and early flowering, due to the ectopic and heterochronic derepression of developmental regulators. Here, we studied one such mutant class, the incurvata11 (icu11) loss-of-function mutants. We have identified ICU11 as the founding member of a small gene family that we have named CUPULIFORMIS (CP). This family is part of the 2-oxoglutarate/Fe(II)-dependent dioxygenase superfamily. ICU11 and its closest paralog, CP2, have unequally redundant functions: although cp2 mutants are phenotypically wild type, icu11 cp2 double mutants skip vegetative development and flower upon germination. This phenotype is reminiscent of loss-of-function mutants of the Polycomb-group genes EMBRYONIC FLOWER1 (EMF1) and EMF2. Double mutants harboring icu11 alleles and loss-of-function alleles of genes encoding components of the epigenetic machinery exhibit synergistic, severe phenotypes, and some are similar to those of emf mutants. Hundreds of genes are misexpressed in icu11 plants, including SEPALLATA3 (SEP3), and derepression of SEP3 causes the leaf phenotype of icu11. ICU11 and CP2 are nucleoplasmic proteins that act as epigenetic repressors through an unknown mechanism involving histone modification, but not DNA methylation.

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