A Model System of Development Regulated by the Long-distance Transport of mRNA


*Corresponding author
Tel: +1 515 294 9130; Fax: +1 515 294 0730; E-mail: djh@iastate.edu.
Available online on 6 January 2010 at http://www.jipb.net and http://www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/jipb


BEL1-like transcription factors are ubiquitous in plants and interact with KNOTTED1-types to regulate numerous developmental processes. In potato, the RNA of several BEL1-like transcription factors has been identified in phloem cells. One of these, StBEL5, and its Knox protein partner regulate tuber formation by targeting genes that control growth. RNA detection methods and grafting experiments demonstrated that StBEL5 transcripts move across a graft union to localize in stolon tips, the site of tuber induction. This movement of RNA originates in source leaf veins and petioles and is induced by a short-day photoperiod, regulated by the untranslated regions, and correlated with enhanced tuber production. Addition of the StBEL5 untranslated regions to another BEL1-like mRNA resulted in its preferential transport to stolon tips leading to increased tuber production. Upon fusion of the untranslated regions of StBEL5 to a β-glucuronidase marker, translation in tobacco protoplasts was repressed by those constructs containing the 3′ untranslated sequence. The untranslated regions of the StBEL5 mRNA are involved in mediating its long-distance transport and in controlling translation. The 3′ untranslated sequence contains an abundance of conserved motifs that may serve as binding motifs for RNA-binding proteins. Because of their presence in the phloem sieve tube system, their unique untranslated region sequences and their diverse RNA accumulation patterns, the family of BEL1-like RNAs from potato represents a valuable model for studying the long-distance transport of full-length mRNAs and their role in development.