Background: Polyadenylation, an essential step in eukaryotic gene expression, requires both cis-elements and a plethora of trans-acting polyadenylation factors. The polyadenylation factors are largely conserved across mammals and fungi. The conservation seems also extended to plants based on the analyses of Arabidopsis polyadenylation factors. To extend this observation, we systemically identified the orthologs of yeast and human polyadenylation factors from 10 plant species chosen based on both the availability of their genome sequences and their positions in the evolutionary tree, which render them representatives of different plant lineages.
Results: The evolutionary trajectories revealed several interesting features of plant polyadenylation factors. First, the number of genes encoding plant polyadenylation factors was clearly increased from "lower" to "higher" plants. Second, the gene expansion in higher plants was biased to some polyadenylation factors, particularly those involved in RNA binding. Finally, while there are clear commonalities, the differences in the polyadenylation apparatus were obvious across different species, suggesting an ongoing process of evolutionary change. These features lead to a model in which the plant polyadenylation complex consists of a conserved core, which is rather rigid in terms of evolutionary conservation, and a panoply of peripheral subunits, which are less conserved and associated with the core in various combinations, forming a collection of somewhat distinct complex assemblies.
Conclusions: The multiple forms of plant polyadenylation complex, together with the diversified polyA signals may explain the intensive alternative polyadenylation (APA) and its regulatory role in biological functions of higher plants.