Abscisic acid (ABA) mediates seed maturation and adaptive responses to environmental stress. In Arabidopsis, the ABA-INSENSITIVE1 (ABI1) protein phosphatase 2C is required for proper ABA responsiveness both in seeds and in vegetative tissues. To determine whether the lack of recessive alleles at the corresponding locus could be explained by the existence of redundant genes, we initiated a search for ABI1 homologs. One such homolog turned out to be the ABI2 locus, whose abi2-1 mutation was previously known to decrease ABA sensitivity. Whereas abi1-1 is (semi)dominant, abi2-1 has been described as recessive and maternally controlled at the germination stage. Unexpectedly, the sequence of the abi2-1 mutation showed that it converts Gly-168 to Asp, which is precisely the same amino acid substitution found in abi1-1 and at the coincidental position within the ABI1 phosphatase domain (Gly-180 to Asp). In vitro assays and functional complementation studies in yeast confirmed that the ABI2 protein is an active protein phosphatase 2C and that the abi2-1 mutation reduced phosphatase activity as well as affinity to Mg2+. Although a number of differences between the two mutants in adaptive responses to stress have been reported, quantitative comparisons of other major phenotypes showed that the effects of both abi1-1 and abi2-1 on these processes are nearly indistinguishable. Thus, the homologous ABI1 and ABI2 phosphatases appear to assume partially redundant functions in ABA signaling, which may provide a mechanism to maintain informational homeostasis.
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