Nucleotide and RNA Metabolism Prime Translational Initiation in the Earliest Events of Mitochondrial Biogenesis during Arabidopsis Germination

Simon Law, Reena Narsai, Nicolas Taylor, Etienne Delannoy, Christopher Carrie, Estelle Giraud, Harvey Millar, Ian Small, James Whelan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)


Mitochondria play a crucial role in germination and early seedling growth in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana). Morphological observations of mitochondria revealed that mitochondrial numbers, typical size, and oval morphology were evident after 12 h of imbibition in continuous light (following 48 h of stratification). The transition from a dormant to an active metabolic state was punctuated by an early molecular switch, characterized by a transient burst in the expression of genes encoding mitochondrial proteins. Factors involved in mitochondrial transcription and RNA processing were overrepresented among these early-expressed genes. This was closely followed by an increase in the transcript abundance of genes encoding proteins involved in mitochondrial DNA replication and translation. This burst in the expression of factors implicated in mitochondrial RNA and DNA metabolism was accompanied by an increase in transcripts encoding components required for nucleotide biosynthesis in the cytosol and increases in transcript abundance of specific members of the mitochondrial carrier protein family that have previously been associated with nucleotide transport into mitochondria. Only after these genes peaked in expression and largely declined were typical mitochondrial numbers and morphology observed. Subsequently, there was an increase in transcript abundance for various bioenergetic and metabolic functions of mitochondria. The coordination of nucleus- and organelle-encoded gene expression was also examined by quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, specifically for components of the mitochondrial electron transport chain and the chloroplastic photosynthetic machinery. Analysis of protein abundance using western-blot analysis and mass spectrometry revealed that for many proteins, patterns of protein and transcript abundance changes displayed significant positive correlations. A model for mitochondrial biogenesis during germination is proposed, in which an early increase in the abundance of transcripts encoding biogenesis functions (RNA metabolism and import components) precedes a later cascade of gene expression encoding the bioenergetic and metabolic functions of mitochondria.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1610-1627
JournalPlant Physiology
Issue number4
Early online date16 Feb 2012
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012


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