Prohibitins, stomatins, and a group of plant defense response genes are demonstrated to belong to a novel protein superfamily. This superfamily is bound by similar primary and secondary predicted protein structures and hydropathy profiles. A PROSITE-formatted regular expression was generated that is highly predictive for identifying members of this superfamily using PHI-BLAST. The superfamily is named PID (proliferation, ion, and death) because prohibitins are involved in proliferation and cell cycle control, stomatins are involved in ion channel regulation, and the plant defense-related genes are involved in cell death. The plant defense gene family is named HIR (hypersensitive induced reaction) because its members are associated with hypersensitive reactions involving cell death and pathogen resistance. For this study, eight novel maize genes were introduced: four closely related to prohibitins (Zm-phb1, Zm-phb2, Zm-phb3, and Zm-phb4), one to stomatins (Zm-stm1), and three to a gene implicated in plant disease responses (Zm-hir1, Zm-hir2, and Zm-hir3). The maize Zm-hir3 gene transcript is up-regulated in a disease lesion mimic mutation (Les9), supporting a role in maize defense responses. Members of this gene superfamily are involved in diverse functions, but their structural similarity suggests a conserved molecular mechanism, which we postulate to be ion channel regulation.
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