The transcription of the Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) GATA transcription factors GATA, NITRATE-INDUCIBLE, CARBON METABOLISM-INVOLVED (GNC) and GNC-LIKE (GNL)/CYTOKININ-RESPONSIVE GATA FACTOR1 is controlled by several growth regulatory signals including light and the phytohormones auxin, cytokinin, and gibberellin. To date, GNC and GNL have been attributed functions in the control of germination, greening, flowering time, floral development, senescence, and floral organ abscission. GNC and GNL belong to the 11-member family of B-class GATA transcription factors that are characterized to date solely by their high sequence conservation within the GATA DNA-binding domain. The degree of functional conservation among the various B-class GATA family members is not understood. Here, we identify and examine B-class GATAs from Arabidopsis, tomato (Solanum lycopersicon), Brachypodium (Brachypodium distachyon), and barley (Hordeum vulgare). We find that B-class GATAs from these four species can be subdivided based on their short or long N termini and the presence of the 13-amino acid C-terminal leucine-leucine-methionine (LLM) domain with the conserved motif LLM. Through overexpression analyses and by complementation of a gnc gnl double mutant, we provide evidence that the length of the N terminus may not allow distinguishing between the different B-class GATAs at the functional level. In turn, we find that the presence and absence of the LLM domain in the overexpressors has differential effects on hypocotyl elongation, leaf shape, and petiole length, as well as on gene expression. Thus, our analyses identify the LLM domain as an evolutionarily conserved domain that determines B-class GATA factor identity and provides a further subclassification criterion for this transcription factor family.
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