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The plant mobile domain proteins MAIN and MAIL1 interact with the phosphatase PP7L to regulate gene expression and silence transposable elements in Arabidopsis thaliana.


Transposable elements (TEs) are DNA repeats that must remain silenced to ensure cell integrity. Several epigenetic pathways including DNA methylation and histone modifications are involved in the silencing of TEs, and in the regulation of gene expression. In Arabidopsis thaliana, the TE-derived plant mobile domain (PMD) proteins have been involved in TE silencing, genome stability, and control of developmental processes. Using a forward genetic screen, we found that the PMD protein MAINTENANCE OF MERISTEMS (MAIN) acts synergistically and redundantly with DNA methylation to silence TEs. We found that MAIN and its close homolog MAIN-LIKE 1 (MAIL1) interact together, as well as with the phosphoprotein phosphatase (PPP) PP7-like (PP7L). Remarkably, main, mail1, pp7l single and mail1 pp7l double mutants display similar developmental phenotypes, and share common subsets of upregulated TEs and misregulated genes. Finally, phylogenetic analyses of PMD and PP7-type PPP domains among the Eudicot lineage suggest neo-association processes between the two protein domains to potentially generate new protein function. We propose that, through this interaction, the PMD and PPP domains may constitute a functional protein module required for the proper expression of a common set of genes, and for silencing of TEs.

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