, Volume 32, Issue 1-2, pp 315-326

Regulation of gene expression in chloroplasts of higher plants

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Chloroplasts contain their own genetic system which has a number of prokaryotic as well as some eukaryotic features. Most chloroplast genes of higher plants are organized in clusters and are cotranscribed as polycistronic pre-RNAs which are generally processes into many shorter overlapping RNA species, each of which accumulates of steady-state RNA levels. This indicates that posttranscriptional RNA processing of primary transcripts is an important step in the control of chloroplast gene expression. Chloroplast RNA processing steps include RNA cleavage/trimming, RNA splicing, ENA editing and RNA stabilization. Several chloroplast genes are interrupted by introns and therefore require processing for gene function. In tobacco chrloroplasts, 18 genes contain introns, six for tRNA genes and 12 for protein-encoding genes. A number of specific proteins and RNA factors are believed to be involved in splicing and maturation of pre-RNAs in chrloroplasts. Processing enzymes and RNA-binding proteins which could be involved in posttranscriptional steps have been identified in the last several years. Our current knowledge of the regulation of gene expression in chloroplasts of higher plants is overviewed and further studies on this matter are also considered.