, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 835-851

Molecular analysis of the aspartate kinase-homoserine dehydrogenase gene from Arabidopsis thaliana

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The gene encoding Arabidopsis thaliana aspartate kinase (ATP:L-aspartate 4-phosphotransferase, EC was isolated from genomic DNA libraries using the carrot ak-hsdh gene as the hybridizing probe. Two genomic libraries from different A. thaliana races were screened independently with the ak probe and the hsdh probe. Nucleotide sequences of the A. thaliana overlapping clones were determined and encompassed 2 kb upstream of the coding region and 300 bp downstream. The corresponding cDNA was isolated from a cDNA library made from poly(A)+-mRNA extracted from cell suspension cultures. Sequence comparison between the Arabidopsis gene product and an AK-HSDH bifunctional enzyme from carrot and from the Escherichia coli thrA and metL genes shows 80%, 37.5% and 31.4% amino acid sequence identity, respectively. The A. thaliana ak-hsdh gene is proposed to be the plant thrA homologue coding for the AK isozyme feedback inhibited by threonine. The gene is present in A. thaliana in single copy and functional as evidenced by hybridization analyses.

The apoprotein-coding region is interrupted by 15 introns ranging from 78 to 134 bp. An upstream chloroplast-targeting sequence with low sequence similarity with the carrot transit peptide was identified. A signal sequence is proposed starting from a functional ATG initiation codon to the first exon of the apoprotein. Two additional introns were identified: one in the 5′ non-coding leader sequence and the other in the putative chloroplast targeting sequence. 5′ sequence analysis revealed the presence of several possible promoter elements as well as conserved regulatory motifs. Among these, an Opaque2 and a yeast GCN4-like recognition element might be relevant for such a gene coding for an enzyme limiting the carbon-flux entry to the biosynthesis of several essential amino acids. 3′ sequence analysis showed the occurrence of two polyadenylation signals upstream of the polyadenylation site.

This work is the first report of the molecular cloning of a plant ak-hsdh genomic sequence. It describes a promoter element that may bring new insights to the regulation of the biosynthesis of the aspartate family of amino acids.