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Plant J. 2005 Oct;44(1):16-24.

Silencing a prohibitin alters plant development and senescence.

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Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


Prohibitins, highly conserved mitochondrial proteins, have been shown to play important roles in cell cycling and senescence in animals and yeast. Sequences with high similarity to prohibitins have been identified in a number of plant species, but their function has not yet been demonstrated. The deduced amino acid sequences of PhPHB1 and PhPHB2, sequences that we identified in a petunia floral expressed sequence tag (EST) database, show high similarity to those of prohibitin-1 and prohibitin-2 proteins, respectively, reported from yeast, animals and plants. Southern analysis suggested that these genes were members of small gene families with at least two prohibitin-1 homologs and four prohibitin-2 homologs. When we downregulated expression of prohibitin-1 using a Tobacco rattle virus-based (TRV), virus-induced gene silencing system (VIGS), we observed plants with smaller and distorted leaves and flowers. Cells in silenced flowers were larger than in control flowers, indicating a substantial reduction in the number of cell divisions that took place during corolla development. The life of silenced flowers was shorter than that of controls, whether on the plant or detached. The respiration of silenced flowers was higher than that of controls, and we observed a marked increase in the abundance of transcripts of a catalase and a small heat-shock protein in the silenced flowers. Our data indicate that prohibitins play a key role in plant development and senescence.

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