Ancient Fused Gene Offers Insight into How Mosses Build Cell Walls

Researchers have identified a fused gene in moss that provides insight into how moss cells build their external walls. The same discovery raises questions about the one-of-a-kind gene that codes for two distinct proteins that participate in two distinct functions. The research team identified the novel gene, known as For1F, while studying exocytosis. Exocytosis is the process by which cells secrete packets of protein and carbohydrates outside their membranes to support extracellular processes like the construction of cell walls. The gene discovered in the research couples the exocytosis-regulating protein Sec10 with formin, a protein that regulates the remodeling of the actin cytoskeleton critical to forming cell shapes. The new study also shows that the gene fusion occurred early in moss evolution and has been retained for more than 170 million years. "We were surprised to find this fused gene in the moss genome," said Magdalena Bezanilla, PhD, the Ernest Everett Just 1907 Professor of Biology at Dartmouth College. "Through our research, we know that the analysis is correct; now it will be interesting to explore the advantage of this coupling of proteins." Dr. Bezanilla led a team at Dartmouth and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst to conduct the study. The research was published online on January 26, 2018 in the Journal of Cell Biology. The article is titled “An Ancient Sec10–Formin Fusion Provides Insights into Actin-Mediated Regulation of Exocytosis.” Once For1F was observed, Dr. Bezanilla and her team set out to determine how unique this particular conjoined arrangement is. By consulting the database of the 1000 Genomes Project, the researchers found that the fused gene was evident in many diverse species of mosses, but not in other plants.
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