Ribonuclease II preserves chloroplast RNA homeostasis by increasing mRNA decay rates, and cooperates with polynucleotide phosphorylase in 3′ end maturation


  • Arabidopsis seed stocks: SALK_013306 (pnp1-1), CS85511 (P184L), CS87183 (pnp1-3), CS86422 (S202N ), CS93456 (A263V ), SALK_090294 (rnr1-3).

(e-mail ds28@cornell.edu).


Ribonuclease R (RNR1) and polynucleotide phosphorylase (cpPNPase) are the two known 3′→5′ exoribonucleases in Arabidopsis chloroplasts, and are involved in several aspects of rRNA and mRNA metabolism. In this work, we show that mutants lacking both RNR1 and cpPNPase exhibit embryo lethality, akin to the non-viability of the analogous double mutant in Escherichia coli. We were successful, however, in combining an rnr1 null mutation with weak pnp mutant alleles, and show that the resulting chlorotic plants display a global reduction in RNA abundance. Such a counterintuitive outcome following the loss of RNA degradation activity suggests a major importance of RNA maturation as a determinant of RNA stability. Detailed analysis of the double mutant demonstrates that the enzymes catalyze a two-step maturation of mRNA 3′ ends, with RNR1 polishing 3′ termini created by cpPNPase. The bulky quaternary structure of cpPNPase compared with RNR1 could explain this activity split between the two enzymes. In contrast to the double mutants, the rnr1 single mutant overaccumulates most mRNA species when compared with the wild type. The excess mRNAs in rnr1 are often present in non-polysomal fractions, and half-life measurements demonstrate a substantial increase in the stability of most mRNA species tested. Together, our data reveal the cooperative activity of two 3′→5′ exoribonucleases in chloroplast mRNA 3′ end maturation, and support the hypothesis that RNR1 plays a significant role in the destabilization of mRNAs unprotected by ribosomes.