The F-box protein superfamily represents one of the largest families in the plant kingdom. F-box proteins phylogenetically organize into numerous subfamilies characterized by their carboxyl (C)-terminal protein-protein interaction domain. Among the largest F-box protein subfamilies in plant genomes are those with C-terminal kelch repeats. In this study, we analyzed the phylogeny and evolution of F-box kelch proteins/genes (FBKs) in seven completely sequenced land plant genomes including a bryophyte, a lycophyte, monocots, and eudicots. While absent in prokaryotes, F-box kelch proteins are widespread in eukaryotes. Nonplant eukaryotes usually contain only a single FBK gene. In land plant genomes, however, FBK s expanded dramatically. Arabidopsis thaliana , for example, contains at least 103 F-box genes with well-conserved C-terminal kelch repeats. The construction of a phylogenetic tree based on the full-length amino acid sequences of the FBKs that we identified in the seven species enabled us to classify FBK genes into unstable/stable/superstable categories. In contrast to superstable genes, which are conserved across all seven species, kelch domains of unstable genes, which are defined as lineage specific, showed strong signatures of positive selection, indicating adaptational potential. We found evidence for conserved protein features such as binding affinities toward A. thaliana SKP1-like adaptor proteins and subcellular localization among closely related FBKs. Pseudogenization seems to occur only rarely, but differential transcriptional regulation of close relatives may result in subfunctionalization.
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