The Plant cell

The Reverse Transcriptase/RNA Maturase Protein MatR Is Required for the Splicing of Various Group II Introns in Brassicaceae Mitochondria.

PMID 27760804


Group II introns are large catalytic RNAs that are ancestrally related to nuclear spliceosomal introns. Sequences corresponding to group II RNAs are found in many prokaryotes and are particularly prevalent within plants organellar genomes. Proteins encoded within the introns themselves (maturases) facilitate the splicing of their own host pre-RNAs. Mitochondrial introns in plants have diverged considerably in sequence and have lost their maturases. In angiosperms, only a single maturase has been retained in the mitochondrial DNA: the matR gene found within NADH dehydrogenase 1 (nad1) intron 4. Its conservation across land plants and RNA editing events, which restore conserved amino acids, indicates that matR encodes a functional protein. However, the biological role of MatR remains unclear. Here, we performed an in vivo investigation of the roles of MatR in Brassicaceae. Directed knockdown of matR expression via synthetically designed ribozymes altered the processing of various introns, including nad1 i4. Pull-down experiments further indicated that MatR is associated with nad1 i4 and several other intron-containing pre-mRNAs. MatR may thus represent an intermediate link in the gradual evolutionary transition from the intron-specific maturases in bacteria into their versatile spliceosomal descendants in the nucleus. The similarity between maturases and the core spliceosomal Prp8 protein further supports this intriguing theory.