Synthetic analysis of natural variants yields insights into the evolution and function of auxin signaling F-box proteins in Arabidopsis thaliana
Synthetic Biology Engineering Evolution Design SEED
The evolution of complex body plans in land plants has been paralleled by gene duplication and divergence within nuclear auxin-signaling networks. A deep mechanistic understanding of auxin signaling proteins therefore may allow rational engineering of novel plant architectures. Towards that end, we analyzed natural variation in the auxin receptor F-box family of wild accessions of the reference plant Arabidopsis thaliana and used this information to populate a structure/function map. We used a synthetic assay to identify natural hypermorphic F-box variants, and then assayed auxin-associated phenotypes in accessions expressing these variants. To directly measure the impact of sequence variants on auxin sensitivity, we generated transgenic plants expressing the most hypermorphic natural alleles. Together, our findings link evolved sequence variation to altered molecular performance and phenotypic diversity at the organism-level. This approach demonstrates the potential for combining synthetic biology approaches with quantitative phenotypes to harness the wealth of available sequence information and guide future engineering efforts of diverse signaling pathways.