In Arabidopsis, more than 1000 putative small signalling peptides have been predicted, but very few have been functionally characterized. One class of small post-translationally modified signalling peptides is the C-TERMINALLY ENCODED PEPTIDE (CEP) family, of which one member has been shown to be involved in regulating root architecture. This work applied a bioinformatics approach to identify more members of the CEP family. It identified 10 additional members and revealed that this family only emerged in flowering plants and was absent from extant members of more primitive plants. The data suggest that the CEP proteins form two subgroups according to the CEP domain. This study further provides an overview of specific CEP expression patterns that offers a comprehensive framework to study the role of the CEP signalling peptides in plant development. For example, expression patterns point to a role in aboveground tissues which was corroborated by the analysis of transgenic lines with perturbed CEP levels. These results form the basis for further exploration of the mechanisms underlying this family of peptides and suggest their putative roles in distinct developmental events of higher plants.
Keywords: Arabidopsis; CEP expression; evolutionary analyses; phylogeny; shoot development.; small signalling peptides.