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The AT-hook motif-encoding gene METABOLIC NETWORK MODULATOR 1 underlies natural variation in Arabidopsis primary metabolism

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Regulation of primary metabolism is a central mechanism by which plants coordinate their various responses to biotic and abiotic challenge. To identify genes responsible for natural variation in primary metabolism, we focused on cloning a locus from Arabidopsis thaliana that influences the level of TCA cycle metabolites in planta. We found that the Met.V.67 locus was controlled by natural variation in METABOLIC NETWORK MODULATOR 1 (MNM1), which encoded an AT-hook motif-containing protein that was unique to the Brassicales lineage. MNM1 had wide ranging effects on plant metabolism and displayed a tissue expression pattern that was suggestive of a function in sink tissues. Natural variation within MNM1 had differential effects during a diurnal time course, and this temporal dependency was supported by analysis of T-DNA insertion and over-expression lines for MNM1. Thus, the cloning of a natural variation locus specifically associated with primary metabolism allowed us to identify MNM1 as a lineage-specific modulator of primary metabolism, suggesting that the regulation of primary metabolism can change during evolution.

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