The Restorer-of-fertility-like 2 pentatricopeptide repeat protein and RNase P are required for the processing of mitochondrial orf291 RNA in Arabidopsis

Sota Fujii, Takamasa Suzuki, Philippe Giege, Tetsuya Higashiyama, Nobuya Koizuka, Toshiharu Shikanai

Eukaryotes harbor mitochondria obtained via ancient symbiosis events. The successful evolution of energy production in mitochondria has been dependent on the control of mitochondrial gene expression by the nucleus. In flowering plants, the nuclear-encoded pentatricopeptide repeat (PPR) superfamily proteins are widely involved in mitochondrial RNA metabolism. Here, we show that an Arabidopsis nuclear-encoded RNA-binding protein, Restorer-of-fertility-like PPR protein 2 (RFL2), is required for RNA degradation of the mitochondrial orf291 transcript via endonucleolytic cleavage of the transcript in the middle of its reading frame. Both in vivo and in vitro, this RNA cleavage requires the activity of mitochondrial proteinaceous RNase P, which is possibly recruited to the site by RFL2. The site of RNase P cleavage likely forms a tRNA-like structure in the orf291 transcript. This study presents an example of functional collaboration between a PPR protein and an endonuclease in RNA cleavage. Furthermore, we show that the RFL2-binding region within the orf291 gene is hypervariable in the family Brassicaceae, possibly correlated with the rapid evolution of the RNA-recognition interfaces of the RFL proteins.