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Plant J. 2003 Jun;34(5):623-33.

The anticodon and the D-domain sequences are essential determinants for plant cytosolic tRNA(Val) import into mitochondria.

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Institut de Biologie Moléculaire des Plantes du CNRS, UPR 2357, Université Louis Pasteur, 12 rue du Général Zimmer, 67084 Strasbourg Cedex, France.


In higher plants, one-third to one-half of the mitochondrial tRNAs are encoded in the nucleus and are imported into mitochondria. This process appears to be highly specific for some tRNAs, but the factors that interact with tRNAs before and/or during import, as well as the signals present on the tRNAs, still need to be identified. The rare experiments performed so far suggest that, besides the probable implication of aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases, at least one additional import factor and/or structural features shared by imported tRNAs must be involved in plant mitochondrial tRNA import. To look for determinants that direct tRNA import into higher plant mitochondria, we have transformed BY2 tobacco cells with Arabidopsis thaliana cytosolic tRNA(Val)(AAC) carrying various mutations. The nucleotide replacements introduced in this naturally imported tRNA correspond to the anticodon and/or D-domain of the non-imported cytosolic tRNA(Met-e). Unlike the wild-type tRNA(Val)(AAC), a mutant tRNA(Val) carrying a methionine CAU anticodon that switches the aminoacylation of this tRNA from valine to methionine is not present in the mitochondrial fraction. Furthermore, mutant tRNAs(Val) carrying the D-domain of the tRNA(Met-e), although still efficiently recognized by the valyl-tRNA synthetase, are not imported any more into mitochondria. These data demonstrate that in plants, besides identity elements required for the recognition by the cognate aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase, tRNA molecules contain other determinants that are essential for mitochondrial import selectivity. Indeed, this suggests that the tRNA import mechanism occurring in plant mitochondria may be different from what has been described so far in yeast or in protozoa.

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