A Chloroplast Retrograde Signal Regulates Nuclear Alternative Splicing

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Science  25 Apr 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6182, pp. 427-430
DOI: 10.1126/science.1250322

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Light is the main source of energy for plants and is also used as a signal for growth and development: Indeed, it can modulate up to a fifth of the entire transcriptome in both Arabidopsis thaliana and rice. Petrillo et al. (p. 427, published online 10 April) show that light can affect gene expression through alternative splicing of the serine-arginine rich protein At-RS31, required for proper plant growth. But photoreceptors are not involved; rather, a mobile retrograde signal from the chloroplast controls the alternative splicing of At-RS31.


Light is a source of energy and also a regulator of plant physiological adaptations. We show here that light/dark conditions affect alternative splicing of a subset of Arabidopsis genes preferentially encoding proteins involved in RNA processing. The effect requires functional chloroplasts and is also observed in roots when the communication with the photosynthetic tissues is not interrupted, suggesting that a signaling molecule travels through the plant. Using photosynthetic electron transfer inhibitors with different mechanisms of action, we deduce that the reduced pool of plastoquinones initiates a chloroplast retrograde signaling that regulates nuclear alternative splicing and is necessary for proper plant responses to varying light conditions.

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