Grain size is an important yield component in rice, however, genes controlling the trait remain poorly understood. Previously, we have shown that an antagonistic pair of basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) proteins, POSITIVE REGULATOR OF GRAIN LENGTH 1 (PGL1) and ANTAGONIST OF PGL1 (APG), is involved in controlling rice grain length. Here, we report the involvement of another atypical bHLH protein gene, POSITIVE REGULATOR OF GRAIN LENGTH 2 (PGL2), in the regulation of rice grain length. Over-expression of PGL2 in the lemma/palea increased grain length and weight in correlation with the level of transgene expression. Observation of the inner epidermal cells of lemma of PGL2-overexpressing lines revealed that the long grain size is caused by an increase in cell length. PGL2 interacts with a typical bHLH protein APG, a negative regulator of rice grain length and weight, in vitro and in vivo. It was reported that overexpression of BU1 (BRASSINOSTEROID UPREGULATED 1), the closest homolog of PGL2, caused an increase in grain length. However, we detected no interaction between BU1 and APG. These findings suggest that PGL2 and PGL1 redundantly suppress the function of APG by forming heterodimers to positively regulate the rice grain length, while the pathway through which BU1, the closest homolog of PGL2, controls grain length is independent of APG.
Keywords: basic helix-loop-helix, cell elongation, grain length, rice, transcription factor