Phylogenetic analyses unravel the evolutionary history of nac proteins in plants

Tingting Zhu, Eviatar Nevo, Dongfa Sun, Junhua Peng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


NAC (NAM/ATAF/CUC) proteins are one of the largest groups of transcription factors in plants. Although many NAC proteins based on Arabidopsis and rice genomes have been reported in a number of species, a complete survey and classification of all NAC genes in plant species from disparate evolutionary groups is lacking. In this study, we analyzed whole-genome sequences from nine major lineages of land plants to unveil the relationships between these proteins. Our results show that there are fewer than 30 NAC proteins present in both mosses and lycophytes, whereas more than 100 were found in most of the angiosperms. Phylogenetic analyses suggest that NAC proteins consist of 21 subfamilies, most of which have highly conserved non-NAC domain motifs. Six of these subfamilies existed in early-diverged land plants, whereas the remainder diverged only within the angiosperms. We hypothesize that NAC proteins probably originated sometime more than 400 million years ago and expanded together with the differentiation of plants into organisms of increasing complexity possibly after the divergence of lycophytes from the other vascular plants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1833-1848
Number of pages16
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • Angiosperm
  • NAC
  • Phylogenetic analysis
  • Transcription factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Genetics
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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