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J Biol Chem. 2002 Sep 27;277(39):36457-64. Epub 2002 Jul 12.

Post-transcriptional control of chloroplast gene expression. Accumulation of stable psaC mRNA is due to downstream RNA cleavages in the ndhD gene.

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Department of Plant Biology, University of Alcalá, Alcalá de Henares, 28871 Madrid, Spain.


Intergenic cleavages, intron splicing, and editing of primary transcripts of the plastid ndhH-D operon produce multiple overlapping RNAs, of which the most abundant by far is the monocistronic 400-nucleotide mRNA of psaC (encoding the PsaC protein of photosystem I), in contrast with the low level of transcripts of the six ndh genes. Like other plastid operons containing genes for functionally unrelated proteins, the contrasting accumulation of ndh and psaC transcripts provides a model to investigate the mechanisms of the post-transcriptional control of gene expression, a feature of chloroplast genetic machinery, with a minimum of interference by transcriptional control. In leek (Allium porrum L), the ndhD transcript (which follows the psaC gene and ends the ndhH-D operon) requires C --> U editing to restore its start codon and may be used as a marker for the processing of psaC and ndhD transcripts. By determining the editing state and 5' end sequences of specific transcripts, we demonstrated that stable monocistronic psaC mRNA results from downstream cleavages in the ndhD sequence, which renders non-functional ndhD transcripts as by-products. Alternative psaC-ndhD intergenic cleavages produce complete mRNAs for both genes, but only take place in precursors containing editing-restored ndhD start codons. Hence, post-transcriptional control acts by promoting the ndhD cleavage alternative, which allows the accumulation of psaC mRNA at the expense of ndhD mRNA levels.

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