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FASEB J. 1993 Jan;7(1):64-71.

RNA editing in plant mitochondria and chloroplasts.

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Department of Biochemistry, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.


In the mitochondria and chloroplasts of flowering plants (angiosperms), transcripts of protein-coding genes are altered after synthesis so that their final primary nucleotide sequence differs from that of the corresponding DNA sequence. This posttranscriptional mRNA editing consists almost exclusively of C-to-U substitutions. Editing occurs predominantly within coding regions, mostly at isolated C residues, and usually at first or second positions of codons, thereby almost always changing the amino acid from that specified by the unedited codon. Editing may also create initiation and termination codons. The net effect of C-to-U RNA editing in plants is to make proteins encoded by plant organelles more similar in sequence to their nonplant homologs. In a few cases, a strong argument can be made that specific C-to-U editing events are essential for the production of functional plant mitochondrial proteins. Although the phenomenon of RNA editing in plants is now well documented, fundamental questions remain to be answered: What determines the specificity of editing? What is the biochemical mechanism (deamination, base exchange, or nucleotide replacement)? How did the system evolve? RNA editing in plants, as in other organisms, challenges our traditional notions of genetic information transfer.

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