Date of this Version
Int. J. Dev. Biol. 53: 371-381 (2009)
The SET domain-containing genes of the TRITHORAX family encode epigenetic factors that maintain the expression of targeted genes. Trithorax homologs have been found in both animals and plants. Since these are thought to have evolved multicellularity independently, common mechanisms of epigenetic regulation must be evolutionarily ancient and derived from a common ancestor. In addition, each lineage has evolved unique mechanisms to expand the original repertoire of epigenetic functions. Phylogenetic analysis of SET domain proteins has outlined some intriguing evolutionary trends. In plants, epigenetic gene silencing mechanisms have been aggressively pursued. In contrast, studies of epigenetic mechanisms maintaining active gene expression have been scarce. The goal of this review is to draw attention to this gap. Trithorax function in plants are analyzed here in an evolutionary context tracing phylogenetic relationships between the histone methyltransferase activities in unicellular and multicellular domains of life. The involvement of two members of the Arabidopsis Trithorax family, ARABIDOPSIS HOMOLOG of TRITHORAX1 (ATX1), and ARABIDOPSIS HOMOLOG of TRITHORAX2 (ATX2), in developmental and adaptation processes of the plant is overviewed.