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Keywords:

  • ribosome;
  • chloroplast;
  • abscisic acid;
  • DEAD-box protein;
  • electron tomography;
  • virescent mutant

Summary

The plastid has its own translation system, and its ribosomes are assembled through a complex process in which rRNA precursors are processed and ribosomal proteins are inserted into the rRNA backbone. DEAD-box proteins have been shown to play roles in multiple steps in ribosome biogenesis. To investigate the cellular and physiological roles of an Arabidopsis DEAD-box protein, RH3, we examined its expression and localization and the phenotypes of rh3–4, a T–DNA insertion mutant allele of RH3. The promoter activity of RH3 is strongest in the greening tissues of 3-day and 1-week-old seedlings but reduced afterwards. Cotyledons were pale and seedling growth was retarded in the mutant. The most obvious abnormality in the mutant chloroplasts was their lack of normal ribosomes. Electron tomography analysis indicated that ribosome density in the 3-day-old mutant chloroplasts is only 20% that of wild-type chloroplasts, and the ribosomes in the mutant are smaller. These chloroplast defects in rh3–4 were alleviated in 2-week-old cotyledons and true leaves. Interestingly, rh3–4 seedlings have lower amounts of abscisic acid prior to recovery of their chloroplasts, and were more sensitive to abiotic stresses. Transcriptomic analysis indicated that nuclear genes for chloroplast proteins are down-regulated, and proteins mediating chloroplast-localized steps of abscisic acid biosynthesis are expressed to a lower extent in 1-week-old rh3–4 seedlings. Taken together, these results suggest that conversion of eoplasts into chloroplasts in young seedlings is critical for the seedlings to start carbon fixation as well as for maintenance of abscisic acid levels for responding to environmental challenges.