Phloem long-distance trafficking of GIBBERELLIC ACID-INSENSITIVE RNA regulates leaf development


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The phloem translocation stream contains a population of RNA molecules, suggesting plants use RNA to integrate developmental processes, at the whole-plant level. In the present study, we analyzed the role of long-distance trafficking in the delivery of transcripts from two members of the GRAS family, namely CmGAIP and GAI. These two homologs were chosen because of their involvement as transcriptional regulators in GA signaling. A combination of pumpkin, tomato and Arabidopsis was employed to examine the processes involved in long-distance delivery, to sink tissues, of RNA for engineered dominant gain-of-function pumpkin (Cmgaip) and Arabidopsis (ΔDELLA-gai) genes. Our studies demonstrate that gai RNA entry into functional sieve elements occurs via a selective process. Both engineered mutant gai transcripts were able to exit the scion phloem and traffic cell to cell into the shoot apex. Delivery of Cmgaip and ΔDELLA-gai RNA mediated highly reproducible changes in leaf phenotype in transgenic tomato lines grown under greenhouse conditions. Phenotypic analysis indicated that tomato leaflet morphology was influenced quite late in development. In addition, tissue sink strength did not appear to dictate gai RNA delivery, suggesting complexity in the process underlying macromolecular trafficking. These results establish that the molecular properties of the Cmgaip and ΔDELLA-gai transcripts are compatible with the tomato cell-to-cell and long-distance macromolecular trafficking systems. An important conclusion, based on our work, is that control over GAI RNA delivery, via the phloem, may be regulated by sequence motifs conserved between plant families. We propose that RNA delivery via the phloem allows for flexibility in fine tuning of developmental programs to ensure newly developing leaves are optimized for performance under the prevailing environmental conditions.