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Plant Cell. 2012 Jan;24(1):123-36. doi: 10.1105/tpc.111.089441. Epub 2012 Jan 20.

The primary transcriptome of barley chloroplasts: numerous noncoding RNAs and the dominating role of the plastid-encoded RNA polymerase.

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Institute for Biology (Genetics), Humboldt-University Berlin, D-10115 Berlin, Germany.


Gene expression in plastids of higher plants is dependent on two different transcription machineries, a plastid-encoded bacterial-type RNA polymerase (PEP) and a nuclear-encoded phage-type RNA polymerase (NEP), which recognize distinct types of promoters. The division of labor between PEP and NEP during plastid development and in mature chloroplasts is unclear due to a lack of comprehensive information on promoter usage. Here, we present a thorough investigation into the distribution of PEP and NEP promoters within the plastid genome of barley (Hordeum vulgare). Using a novel differential RNA sequencing approach, which discriminates between primary and processed transcripts, we obtained a genome-wide map of transcription start sites in plastids of mature first leaves. PEP-lacking plastids of the albostrians mutant allowed for the unambiguous identification of NEP promoters. We observed that the chloroplast genome contains many more promoters than genes. According to our data, most genes (including genes coding for photosynthesis proteins) have both PEP and NEP promoters. We also detected numerous transcription start sites within operons, indicating transcriptional uncoupling of genes in polycistronic gene clusters. Moreover, we mapped many transcription start sites in intergenic regions and opposite to annotated genes, demonstrating the existence of numerous noncoding RNA candidates.

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