Key words Evolutionary gene transfer
Ribosomal protein S14
Mitochondrial targeting peptide
Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract The transfer of genetic information from the mitochondrion to the nucleus is thought to be still underway in higher plants. The mitochondrial genome of Arabidopsis thaliana contains only one rps14 pseudogene. In this paper we show that the functional gene encoding mitochondrial ribosomal protein S14 has been translocated to the nucleus. This gene transfer is a recent evolutionary event, which occurred within Cruciferae, probably after the divergence of Arabidopsis and Brassica napus. A 5′ extension of the rps14 reading frame encodes a presequence which, in vitro, targets the polypeptide to isolated mitochondria and is cleaved off during or after import. No intron was found at the junction of the targeting presequence with the mitochondrially derived sequence, which are directly connected. By contrast, a 90-bp intron, which is removed by splicing to give a mature poly(A)+mRNA of 0.9 kb, is located in the 3′ non-coding region. To our knowledge, this is the first report of an intron in such a position in a functional transferred gene in higher plants, and suggests that exon shuffling may have been involved in the acquisition of elements necessary for expression in the nucleus. Putative roles of this intron in polyadenylation and enhancement of gene expression are discussed.
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