Genes from Arabidopsis involved in iron-sulfur cluster biogenesis
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Iron sulfur [Fe-S] proteins are essential components of many major biological processes including electron transport, respiration, photosynthesis, hormone biosynthesis, and environmental sensing. The process of [Fe-S] cluster assembly in living cells is a controlled mechanism that is highly conserved across all kingdoms. Considerable progress has been made in deciphering this mechanism in bacteria, yeast, and mammals. The key players are the NifS/IscS/SufS proteins, which act as the sulfur donor, and the NifU/IscU/SufU proteins, which serve as a scaffold that binds Fe and upon which the cluster is assembled. Additional proteins are involved in the maturation and transport of the clusters. In eukaryotes there is redundancy in the proteins involved in this mechanism and the process is compartmentalized. Not much is known about the [Fe-S] cluster assembly mechanism in plants. In addition to the redundancy and compartmentalization seen in this machinery in eukaryotes, plants present a further challenge by offering chloroplasts as an additional site for [Fe-S] cluster assembly. The objective of this project has been to characterize Arabidopsis AtNFS1 and AtISU1-3, which show high homology to NifS/IscS and NifU/IscU, respectively, and are hypothesized to be key players in [Fe-S] cluster biogenesis in plants. Subcellular localization results of the AtNFS1 and AtISU1-3 proteins fused to GFP from this study are consistent with the presence of dual machinery in plants, with both mitochondria and chloroplasts as sites for [Fe-S] cluster assembly. Furthermore, observations also showed that AtISU2 mRNA may be unstable. The results of these experiments, together with promoter analysis described in this dissertation using GUS fusions suggested that the genes encoding the AtISU scaffold proteins are regulated at the transcriptional and probably also at the posttranscriptional level. Gene silencing experiments performed in this dissertation research using antisense and RNAi constructs indicated that these genes have the potential to impact respiration, photosynthesis, phytohormone biosynthesis, and environmental sensing, diverse processes that rely on [Fe-S] proteins. These observations, together with previous in vitro evidence that AtNFS1 and AtISU1 can participate in [Fe-S] cluster assembly, provide strong evidence that these proteins are part of two distinct cluster assembly systems that function in different subcellular locations and perhaps under different environmental conditions. Information gathered here has made it possible to begin developing a detailed model of [Fe-S] cluster biogenesis in plants.
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