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Plant Physiol. 2012 May;159(1):211-26. doi: 10.1104/pp.112.194720. Epub 2012 Mar 13.

RecA-dependent DNA repair results in increased heteroplasmy of the Arabidopsis mitochondrial genome.

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Institut de Biologie Moléculaire des Plantes, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Unité Propre de Recherche 2357, Université de Strasbourg, 67084 Strasbourg, France.


Plant mitochondria have very active DNA recombination activities that are responsible for its plastic structures and that should be involved in the repair of double-strand breaks in the mitochondrial genome. Little is still known on plant mitochondrial DNA repair, but repair by recombination is believed to be a major determinant in the rapid evolution of plant mitochondrial genomes. In flowering plants, mitochondria possess at least two eubacteria-type RecA proteins that should be core components of the mitochondrial repair mechanisms. We have performed functional analyses of the two Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) mitochondrial RecAs (RECA2 and RECA3) to assess their potential roles in recombination-dependent repair. Heterologous expression in Escherichia coli revealed that RECA2 and RECA3 have overlapping as well as specific activities that allow them to partially complement bacterial repair pathways. RECA2 and RECA3 have similar patterns of expression, and mutants of either display the same molecular phenotypes of increased recombination between intermediate-size repeats, thus suggesting that they act in the same recombination pathways. However, RECA2 is essential past the seedling stage and should have additional important functions. Treatment of plants with several DNA-damaging drugs further showed that RECA3 is required for different recombination-dependent repair pathways that significantly contribute to plant fitness under stress. Replication repair of double-strand breaks results in the accumulation of crossovers that increase the heteroplasmic state of the mitochondrial DNA. It was shown that these are transmitted to the plant progeny, enhancing the potential for mitochondrial genome evolution.

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