Characterisation of the Clp Proteins in Arabidopsis thaliana
Abstract: Unlike in the greenhouse, plants need to cope with many environmental stresses under natural conditions. Among these conditions are drought, waterlogging, excessive or too little light, high or low temperatures, UV irradiation, high soil salinity, and nutrient deficiency. These stress factors can affect many biological processes, and severely retard the growth and development of higher plants, resulting in massive losses of crop yield and wood production. Plants have developed many protective mechanisms to survive and acclimate to stresses, such as the rapid induction of specific molecular chaperones and proteases at the molecular level. Molecular chaperones mediate the correct folding and assembly of polypeptides, as well as repair damaged protein structures caused by stress, while proteases remove otherwise non-functional and potentially cytotoxic proteins. The Clp/Hsp100 family is a new group of chaperones that consists of both constitutive and stress-inducible members. Besides being important chaperones, many Clp/Hsp100 also participate in protein degradation by associating with the proteolytic subunit ClpP to form the Clp protease complex. Higher plants have the greatest number and complexity of Clp proteins than any other group of organisms, and more than 20 different Clp isomers in plants have been identified (Paper I). Because of this diversity, we have adopted a functional genomics approach to characterise all Clp proteins in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Our ongoing research strategy combines genetic, biochemical and molecular approaches. Central to these has been the preparation of transgenic lines for each of the chloroplast Clp isomers. These transgenic lines will be analysed to understand the function and regulation of each chloroplast Clp protein for plant growth and development.In Paper II, an Arabidopsis thaliana cDNA was isolated that encodes a homologue of bacterial ClpX. Specific polyclonal antibodies were made and used to localise the ClpX homologue to plant mitochondria, consistent with that predicted by computer analysis of the putative transit peptide. In addition to ClpX, a nuclear-encoded ClpP protein, termed ClpP2, was identified from the numerous ClpP isomers in Arabidopsis and was also located in mitochondria. Relatively unchanged levels of transcripts for both clpX and clpP2 genes were detected in various tissues and under different growth conditions. Using ?-casein as a substrate, plant mitochondria possessed an ATP-stimulated, serine-type proteolytic activity that could be strongly inhibited by antibodies specific for ClpX or ClpP2, suggesting an active ClpXP protease.In Paper III, four nuclear-encoded Clp isomers were identified in Arabidopsis thaliana: ClpC1 and ClpP3-5. All four proteins are localized within the stroma of chloroplasts, along with the previously identified ClpD, ClpP1 and ClpP6 proteins. Potential differential regulation among these Clp proteins was analysed at both the mRNA and protein level. A comparison between different tissues showed increasing amounts of all plastid Clp proteins from roots to stems to leaves. The increases in protein were mirrored at the mRNA level for most ClpP isomers but not for ClpC1, ClpC2 and ClpD and ClpP5, which exhibited little change in transcript levels. Potential stress induction was also tested for all chloroplast Clp proteins by a series of brief and prolonged stress conditions. The results reveal that these proteins, rather than being rapidly induced stress proteins, are primarily constitutive proteins that may also be involved in plant acclimation to different physiological conditions. In Paper IV, antisense repression transgenic lines of clpP4 were prepared and then later characterised. Within the various lines screened, up to 90% of ClpP4 protein content was specifically repressed, which also led to the down-regulation of ClpP3 and ClpP5 protein contents. The repression of clpP4 mRNA retarded the development of chloroplasts and the differentiation of leaf mesophyll cells, resulting in chlorotic phenotypes. The chlorosis was more severe in young than in mature leaves due likely to the developmental expression pattern of the ClpP4 protein. Chlorotic plants eventually turned green upon aging, accompanied by a recovery in the amount of the ClpP4 protein. The greening process could be affected by the light quantity, either by altering the photoperiod or light intensity.
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