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New Phytol. 2009;181(3):588-600. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2008.02701.x. Epub 2008 Dec 8.

Role of Lon1 protease in post-germinative growth and maintenance of mitochondrial function in Arabidopsis thaliana.

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Department of Agricultural Biotechnology, Agricultural University of Athens, Iera Odos 75, Athens 118 55, Greece.


Maintenance of protein quality control and turnover is essential for cellular homeostasis. In plant organelles this biological process is predominantly performed by ATP-dependent proteases. Here, a genetic screen was performed that led to the identification of Arabidopsis thaliana Lon1 protease mutants that exhibit a post-embryonic growth retardation phenotype. Translational fusion to yellow fluorescent protein revealed AtLon1 subcellular localization in plant mitochondria, and the AtLon1 gene could complement the respiratory-deficient phenotype of the yeast PIM1 gene homolog. AtLon1 is highly expressed in rapidly growing plant organs of embryonic origin, including cotyledons and primary roots, and in inflorescences, which have increased mitochondria numbers per cell to fulfill their high energy requirements. In lon1 mutants, the expression of both mitochondrial and nuclear genes encoding respiratory proteins was normal. However, mitochondria isolated from lon1 mutants had a lower capacity for respiration of succinate and cytochrome c via complexes II and IV, respectively. Furthermore, the activity of key enzymes of the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle was significantly reduced. Additionally, mitochondria in lon1 mutants had an aberrant morphology. These results shed light on the developmental mechanisms of selective proteolysis in plant mitochondria and suggest a critical role for AtLon1 protease in organelle biogenesis and seedling establishment.

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