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Zou, Meijuan; Mu, Ying; Chai, Xin; Ouyang, Min; Yu, Long-Jiang; Zhang, Lixin; Meurer, Jörg and Chi, Wei (2020): The critical function of the plastid rRNA methyltransferase, CMAL, in ribosome biogenesis and plant development. In: Nucleic Acids Research, Vol. 48, No. 6: pp. 3195-3210

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Methylation of nucleotides in ribosomal RNAs (rRNAs) is a ubiquitous feature that occurs in all living organisms. The formation of methylated nucleotides is performed by a variety of RNA-methyltransferases. Chloroplasts of plant cells result from an endosymbiotic event and possess their own genome and ribosomes. However, enzymes responsible for rRNA methylation and the function of modified nucleotides in chloroplasts remain to be determined. Here, we identified an rRNA methyltransferase, CMAL (Chloroplast MraW-Like), in the Arabidopsis chloroplast and investigated its function. CMAL is the Arabidopsis ortholog of bacterial MraW/RsmH proteins and accounts to the N-4-methylation of C-1352 in chloroplast 16S rRNA, indicating that CMAL orthologs and this methyl-modification nucleotide is conserved between bacteria and the endosymbiont-derived eukaryotic organelle. The knockout of CMAL in Arabidopsis impairs the chloroplast ribosome accumulation and accordingly reduced the efficiency of mRNA translation. Interestingly, the loss of CMAL leads not only to defects in chloroplast function, but also to abnormal leaf and root development and overall plant morphology. Further investigation showed that CMAL is involved in the plant development probably by modulating auxin derived signaling pathways. This study uncovered the important role of 16S rRNA methylation mediated by CMAL in chloroplast ribosome biogenesis and plant development.

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