Giberellic Acid-Stimulated Transcript Proteins Evolved through Successive Conjugation of Novel Motifs and Their Subfunctionalization.


National Institute of Plant Genome Research, Aruna Asaf Ali Marg, New Delhi 110067, India [Email]


Gibberellic Acid Stimulated Transcript (GAST)-like genes encode small polypeptides, some of which have been implicated in diverse biological processes regulating plant growth and development. However, the occurrence of GASTs among plants, their protein structures, and the mechanisms by which they evolved remain elusive. Here, using a customized workflow, we report genes encoding GAST proteins, identify novel motifs and evolutionary patterns contributing to the subfunctionalization of GAST domains, and explore functional conservation across diverse plant groups. We show that GAST-like sequences evolved initially in the vascular plant Selaginella moellendorffii, after the divergence from bryophytes, and later emerged in gymnosperms and angiosperms. GASTs in angiosperms are characterized by four conserved novel motifs; however, relatively fewer conserved motifs exist in pteridophytes and gymnosperms. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that the GAST-Cysteine Rich1 motif evolved early in the S. moellendorffii GAST, which further acquired subfunctionalization through successive conjugation of other motifs and remained conserved across plants, as supported by their collinearity. Functional characterization of two orthologs from the dicot Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana; Gibberellic Acid-Stimulated Arabidopsis 10) and the monocot rice (Oryza sativa; Gibberellic Acid Stimulated Transcript-Related 9) suggests hormonal regulation, novel roles in seed germination, and functional conservation among diverse plant groups. Computational modeling predicts that these GAST genes are regulated by several factors, including the phytohormones gibberellin and abscisic acid, through conserved cis-motifs present in their promoters, and that they might act as signaling molecules in a complex feedback loop. Thus, our study identifies GASTs and their encoded proteins, uncovers their structure, novel motifs, and evolutionary pattern among plants, and suggests their functional conservation.