, Volume 27, Issue 6, pp 580-586

Structural and functional analysis of plastid genomes from parasitic plants: loss of an intron within the genus Cuscuta

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The gene cluster rps12/rps7/ΨndhB of the plastome from the holoparasitic plant Cuscuta europaea has been analysed at the nucleotide level. A comparison with the homologous region of the plastome from the closely related parasite Cuscuta reflexa reveals a complete loss of the cis-spliced intron of the rps12 gene in addition to a drastic size reduction of the ndhB pseudogene. It is demonstrated by RT-PCR analysis that the entire gene cluster is transcribed in the form of a multicistronic transcript which also includes the sequences encoded by the ndhB pseudogene. A cDNA containing the correctly transspliced exon 1 of the rps12 transcript can also be amplified. This shows that trans-splicing of the rps12 transcript persists in the plastids of the holoparasite despite the loss of the cis-spliced intron and the loss of many other gene functions. The rps12 and rps7 genes, therefore, still appear to code for functional ribosomal proteins CS12 and CS7, respectively. The conservation of apparently intact ribosomal-protein genes from which correctly processed transcripts are produced is taken as evidence that the translational apparatus of the plastids is still functional and necessary for the expression of the genes remaining in the reduced plastome of a parasitic plant.

This paper is dedicated to Prot. Dr. Peter Sitte on the occasion of his 65th birthday