The dual-targeted RNA editing factor AEF1 is universally conserved among angiosperms and reveals only minor adaptations upon loss of its chloroplast or its mitochondrial target

  • Anke Hein
  • Sarah Brenner
  • Monika Polsakiewicz
  • Volker KnoopEmail author


Key message

Upon loss of either its chloroplast or mitochondrial target, a uniquely dual-targeted factor for C-to-U RNA editing in angiosperms reveals low evidence for improved molecular adaptation to its remaining target.


RNA-binding pentatricopeptide repeat (PPR) proteins specifically recognize target sites for C-to-U RNA editing in the transcriptomes of plant chloroplasts and mitochondria. Among more than 80 PPR-type editing factors that have meantime been characterized, AEF1 (or MPR25) is a special case given its dual targeting to both organelles and addressing an essential mitochondrial (nad5eU1580SL) and an essential chloroplast (atpFeU92SL) RNA editing site in parallel in Arabidopsis. Here, we explored the angiosperm-wide conservation of AEF1 and its two organelle targets. Despite numerous independent losses of the chloroplast editing site by C-to-T conversion and at least four such conversions at the mitochondrial target site in other taxa, AEF1 remains consistently conserved in more than 120 sampled angiosperm genomes. Not a single case of simultaneous loss of the chloroplast and mitochondrial editing target or of AEF1 disintegration or loss could be identified, contrasting previous findings for editing factors targeted to only one organelle. Like in most RNA editing factors, the PPR array of AEF1 reveals potential for conceptually “improved fits” to its targets according to the current PPR-RNA binding code. Surprisingly, we observe only minor evidence for adaptation to the mitochondrial target also after deep losses of the chloroplast target among Asterales, Caryophyllales and Poales or, vice versa, for the remaining chloroplast target after a deep loss of the mitochondrial target among Malvales. The evolutionary observations support the notion that PPR-RNA mismatches may be essential for proper function of editing factors.


Plant chloroplasts and mitochondria C-to-U RNA editing RNA-binding PPR proteins PPR-RNA recognition code Dual organelle targeting Angiosperm phylogeny 


Author contributions

AH did analysis of sequence data and conducted phylogenetic analysis, SB and MP did nucleic acid preparations, PCR amplifications and molecular cloning, VK designed and supervised the study and wrote the manuscript, AH and VK prepared figures and edited the final manuscript.

Supplementary material

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Electronic supplementary material 1 (DOCX 313 kb)
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Electronic supplementary material 3 (FAS 161 kb)


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IZMB – Institut für Zelluläre und Molekulare Botanik, Abteilung Molekulare EvolutionUniversität BonnBonnGermany

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