Negative regulation of conserved RSL class I bHLH transcription factors evolved independently among land plants.
Honkanen S., Thamm A., Arteaga-Vazquez MA., Dolan L.
Basic helix-loop-helix transcription factors encoded by RSL class I genes control a gene regulatory network that positively regulates the development of filamentous rooting cells - root hairs and rhizoids - in land plants. The GLABRA2 transcription factor negatively regulates these genes in the angiosperm Arabidopsis thaliana. To find negative regulators of RSL class I genes in early diverging land plants we conducted a mutant screen in the liverwort Marchantia polymorpha. This identified FEW RHIZOIDS1 (MpFRH1) microRNA (miRNA) that negatively regulates the RSL class I gene MpRSL1. The miRNA and its mRNA target constitute a feedback mechanism that controls epidermal cell differentiation. MpFRH1 miRNA target sites are conserved among liverwort RSL class I mRNAs but are not present in RSL class I mRNAs of other land plants. These findings indicate that while RSL class I genes are ancient and conserved, independent negative regulatory mechanisms evolved in different lineages during land plant evolution.