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Streptophytes colonized the land some time before 470 million years ago [1-3]. The colonization coincided with an increase in morphological and cellular diversity [4-7]. This increase in diversity is correlated with a proliferation in transcription factors encoded in genomes [8-10]. This suggests that gene duplication and subsequent diversification of function was instrumental in the generation of land plant diversity. Here, we investigate the diversification of the streptophyte-specific Lotus japonicus ROOTHAIRLESS LIKE (LRL) transcription factor (TF) [11, 12] subfamily of basic loop helix (bHLH) proteins by comparing gene function in early divergent and derived land plant species. We report that the single Marchantia polymorpha LRL gene acts as a general growth regulator required for rhizoid development, a function that has been partially conserved throughout multicellular streptophytes. In contrast, the five relatively derived Arabidopsis thaliana LRL genes comprise two antagonistically acting groups of differentially expressed genes. The diversification of LRL genes accompanied the evolution of an antagonistic regulatory element controlling root hair development.

Original publication




Journal article


Curr Biol

Publication Date





1622 - 1628


Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors, Evolution, Molecular, Gene Duplication, Gene Expression, Gene Regulatory Networks, Multigene Family, Plant Development, Plant Roots, Plants