Background: Myb proteins contain a conserved DNA-binding domain composed of one to four repeat motifs (referred to as R0R1R2R3); each repeat is approximately 50 amino acids in length, with regularly spaced tryptophan residues. Although the Myb proteins comprise one of the largest families of transcription factors in plants, little is known about the functions of most Myb genes. Here we use computational techniques to classify Myb genes on the basis of sequence similarity and gene structure, and to identify possible functional relationships among subgroups of Myb genes from Arabidopsis and rice (Oryza sativa L. ssp. indica).
Results: This study analyzed 130 Myb genes from Arabidopsis and 85 from rice. The collected Myb proteins were clustered into subgroups based on sequence similarity and phylogeny. Interestingly, the exon-intron structure differed between subgroups, but was conserved in the same subgroup. Moreover, the Myb domains contained a significant excess of phase 1 and 2 introns, as well as an excess of nonsymmetric exons. Conserved motifs were detected in carboxy-terminal coding regions of Myb genes within subgroups. In contrast, no common regulatory motifs were identified in the noncoding regions. Additionally, some Myb genes with similar functions were clustered in the same subgroups.
Conclusions: The distribution of introns in the phylogenetic tree suggests that Myb domains originally were compact in size; introns were inserted and the splicing sites conserved during evolution. Conserved motifs identified in the carboxy-terminal regions are specific for Myb genes, and the identified Myb gene subgroups may reflect functional conservation.