The R2R3-MYB proteins comprise one of the largest families of transcription factors in plants. R2R3-MYB family members regulate plant-specific processes, such as the elaboration of specialized cell types, including xylem, guard cells, trichomes, and root hairs, and the biosynthesis of specialized branches of metabolism, including phenylpropanoid biosynthesis. As such, R2R3-MYB family members are hypothesized to contribute to the emergence of evolutionary innovations that have arisen in specific plant lineages. As a first step in determining the role played by R2R3-MYB family members in the emergence of lineage-specific innovations in the genus Populus, the entire Populus trichocarpa R2R3-MYB family was characterized. The Populus R2R3-MYB complement is much larger than that found in other angiosperms with fully sequenced genomes. Phylogenetic analyses, together with chromosome placement, showed that the expansion of the Populus R2R3-MYB family was not only attributable to whole genome duplication but also involved selective expansion of specific R2R3-MYB clades. Expansion of the Populus R2R3-MYB family prominently involved members with expression patterns that suggested a role in specific components of Populus life history, including wood formation and reproductive development. An expandable compendium of microarray-based expression data (PopGenExpress) and associated Web-based tools were developed to better enable within- and between-species comparisons of Populus R2R3-MYB gene expression. This resource, which includes intuitive graphic visualization of gene expression data across multiple tissues, organs, and treatments, is freely available to, and expandable by, scientists wishing to better understand the genome biology of Populus, an ecologically dominant and economically important forest tree genus.
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