A maize gene designated thylakoid assembly 8 (tha8) emerged from a screen for nuclear mutations that cause defects in the biogenesis of chloroplast thylakoid membranes. The tha8 gene encodes an unusual member of the pentatricopeptide repeat (PPR) family, a family of helical repeat proteins that participate in various aspects of organellar RNA metabolism. THA8 localizes to chloroplasts, where it associates specifically with the ycf3-2 and trnA group II introns. The splicing of ycf3-2 is eliminated in tha8 mutants, and trnA splicing is strongly compromised. Reverse-genetic analysis of the tha8 ortholog in Arabidopsis thaliana showed that these molecular functions are conserved, although null alleles are embryo lethal in Arabidopsis and seedling lethal in maize. Whereas most PPR proteins have more than 10 PPR motifs, THA8 belongs to a subfamily of plant PPR proteins with only four PPR motifs and little else. THA8 is the first member of this subfamily with a defined molecular function, and illustrates that even small PPR proteins have the potential to mediate specific intermolecular interactions in vivo.
Anastassia Khrouchtchova; Rita-Ann Monde; Alice Barkan
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