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Mol Cell Biol. Sep 1994; 14(9): 6171–6179.
PMCID: PMC359144

The petD gene is transcribed by functionally redundant promoters in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii chloroplasts.


FUD6, a nonphotosynthetic mutant of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, was previously found to be deficient in the synthesis of subunit IV of the cytochrome b6/f complex, the chloroplast petD gene product (C. Lemaire, J. Girard-Bascou, F.-A. Wollman, and P. Bennoun, Biochim. Biophys. Acta 851:229-238, 1986). The lesion in FUD6 is a 236-bp deletion between two 11-bp direct repeats in the chloroplast genome. It extends from 82 to 72 bp upstream of the 5' end of wild-type petD mRNA to 156 to 166 bp downstream of the 5' end. Thus, the deletion extends into the putative promoter and 5' untranslated region of petD. No petD mRNA of the normal size can be detected in FUD6 cells, but a low level of a dicistronic message accumulates, which contains the coding regions for subunit IV and cytochrome f, the product of the upstream petA gene. petD transcriptional activity in FUD6 is not significantly altered from the wild-type level. This transcriptional activity was eliminated by petA promoter disruptions, suggesting that it originates at the petA promoter. We conclude that the petD-coding portion of most cotranscripts is rapidly degraded in FUD6, possibly following processing events that generate the 3' end of petA mRNA. A chloroplast transformant was constructed in which only the sequence from -81 to -2 relative to the major 5' end of the petD transcript was deleted. Although this deletion eliminates all detectable petD promoter activity, the transformant grows phototrophically and accumulates high levels of monocistronic petD mRNA. We conclude that the petD gene can be transcribed by functionally redundant promoters. In the absence of a functional petD promoter, a lack of transcription termination allows the downstream petD gene to be cotranscribed with the petA coding region and thereby expressed efficiently.

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