In a past article, our lab described the identification and characterization of a novel vegetative MADS-box gene from quaking aspen trees, Populus tremuloides MADS-box 5 (PTM5). PTM5 was shown to be a member of the SOC1/TM3 class of MADS-box genes with a seasonal expression pattern specific to developing vascular tissues including the vascular cambium, the precursor to all woody branches, stems, and roots. Since the proper function of MADS-box proteins is dependent on specific interactions with other regulatory proteins, we further examined PTM5 protein–protein interactions as a means to better understand its function. Through yeast two-hybrid analyses, it was demonstrated that, like other SOC1/TM3 class proteins, PTM5 is capable of interacting with itself as well as other MADS-box proteins from aspen. In addition, yeast two-hybrid library screening revealed that PTM5 interacts with two non-MADS proteins, an actin depolymerizing factor (PtADF) and a novel leucine-rich repeat protein (PtLRR). In situ RNA localization was used to verify the overlapping expression patterns of these genes, and transgenic studies showed that over-expression of PTM5 in aspen causes alterations in root vasculature and root biomass development consistent with the cell growth and expansion functions of related ADF and LRR genes. These results suggest that the interaction of vegetative MADS-box genes with specific protein cofactors is a key step in the mechanisms that control woody tissue development in trees.
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