We have analyzed gene regulation of the Lhc supergene family in poplar ( Populus spp.) and Arabidopsis ( Arabidopsis thaliana ) using digital expression profiling. Multivariate analysis of the tissue-specific, environmental, and developmental Lhc expression patterns in Arabidopsis and poplar was employed to characterize four rarely expressed Lhc genes, Lhca5 , Lhca6 , Lhcb7 , and Lhcb4.3 . Those genes have high expression levels under different conditions and in different tissues than the abundantly expressed Lhca1 to 4 and Lhcb1 to 6 genes that code for the 10 major types of higher plant light-harvesting proteins. However, in some of the datasets analyzed, the Lhcb4 and Lhcb6 genes as well as an Arabidopsis gene not present in poplar ( Lhcb2.3 ) exhibited minor differences to the main cooperative Lhc gene expression pattern. The pattern of the rarely expressed Lhc genes was always found to be more similar to that of PsbS and the various light-harvesting-like genes, which might indicate distinct physiological functions for the rarely and abundantly expressed Lhc proteins. The previously undetected Lhcb7 gene encodes a novel plant Lhcb-type protein that possibly contains an additional, fourth, transmembrane N-terminal helix with a highly conserved motif. As the Lhcb4.3 gene seems to be present only in Eurosid species and as its regulation pattern varies significantly from that of Lhcb4.1 and Lhcb4.2 , we conclude it to encode a distinct Lhc protein type, Lhcb8.
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