J Integr Plant Biol. ›› 2023, Vol. 65 ›› Issue (3): 739-754.DOI: 10.1111/jipb.13400

• Cell and Developmental Biology • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Low copy numbers for mitochondrial DNA moderates the strength of nuclear–cytoplasmic incompatibility in plants

Liguang Zhang1†, Jin Ma1†, Zhaorui Shen1†, Bo Wang2, Qingling Jiang1, Fei Ma1, Yan Ju1, Guangxing Duan1, Quan Zhang1, Xiaodong Su2 and Sodmergen1*   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Ministry of Education for Cell Proliferation and Differentiation, College of Life Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China;
    2. State Key Laboratory of Protein and Plant Gene Research and Biomedical Pioneering Innovation Center (BIOPIC), College of Life Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
    These authors contributed equally to this work.
    *Correspondence: Sodmergen (sodmergn@pku.edu.cn)
  • Received:2022-07-18 Accepted:2022-10-27 Online:2022-10-29 Published:2023-03-01

Abstract: Plant cells contain only small amounts of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), with the genomic information shared among multiple mitochondria. The biological relevance and molecular mechanism underlying this hallmark of plant cells has been unclear. Here, we report that Arabidopsis thaliana plants exhibited significantly reduced growth and mitochondrial dysfunction when the mtDNA copy number was increased to the degree that each mitochondrion possessed DNA. The amounts of mitochondrion-encoded transcripts increased several fold in the presence of elevated mtDNA levels. However, the efficiency of RNA editing decreased with this excess of mitochondrion-encoded transcripts, resulting in impaired assembly of mitochondrial complexes containing mtDNA-encoded subunits, such as respiratory complexes I and IV. These observations indicate the occurrence of nuclear–mitochondrial incompatibility in the cells with increased amounts of mtDNA and provide an initial answer to the fundamental question of why plant cells have much lower mtDNA levels than animal cells. We propose that keeping mtDNA levels low moderates nuclear–mitochondrial incompatibility and that this may be a crucial factor driving plant cells to restrict the copy numbers of mtDNA.

Key words: Arabidopsis, low-copy mtDNA, plant, mitochondria, mitochondrial DNA

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