Identification of translocatable RNA-binding phloem proteins from melon, potential components of the long-distance RNA transport system


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Phloem proteins (P-proteins) are an enigmatic group of proteins present in most angiosperm species. The best characterized P-proteins (PP1 and PP2) are synthesized in companion cells, transported into sieve elements via pore plasmodesmata and translocated through the plant. Characteristics such as long-distance translocation, RNA-binding activity and capacity of increasing plasmodesmata exclusion size suggest that certain phloem proteins could be involved in RNA transport within the plant, forming translocatable ribonucleoprotein complexes with endogenous or pathogenic RNAs. Long-distance movement of RNA through the phloem is a process known to occur, but both the mechanisms involved and the components constituting this potential information network remain unclear. Here, we demonstrate that several melon phloem proteins have a wide RNA-binding activity. Serological assays strongly suggest that one of these proteins is the melon phloem protein 2 (CmmPP2). Mass spectrometry analysis undoubtedly identifies another one as the recently characterized melon phloem lectin (CmmLec17). Grafting experiments demonstrate that the CmmLec17 is a translocatable phloem protein, able to move through intergeneric grafts from melon to pumpkin. Translocatability and RNA-binding activity was also demonstrated for an uncharacterized protein of approximately 14 kDa. In light of these results the possible involvement of these phloem proteins in the long-distance transport of melon RNAs is discussed.