During early chloroplast differentiation, the regulation of the plastid genetic system including transcription and translation differs greatly from that in the mature chloroplast, suggesting the existence of a stage-dependent mechanism that regulates the chloroplast genetic system during this period. The virescent-1 (v 1) mutant of rice (Oryza sativa) is temperature-conditional and develops chlorotic leaves under low-temperature conditions. We reported previously that leaf chlorosis in the v 1 mutant is caused by blockage of the activation of the chloroplast genetic system during early leaf development. Here we identify the V 1 gene, which encodes a chloroplast-localized protein NUS1. Accumulation of NUS1 specifically occurred in the pre-emerged immature leaves, and is enhanced by low-temperature treatment. The C-terminus of NUS1 shows structural similarity to the bacterial antitermination factor NusB, which is known to play roles in the regulation of ribosomal RNA transcription. The RNA-immunoprecipitation and gel mobility shift assays indicated that NUS1 binds to several regions of chloroplast RNA including the upstream leader region of the 16S rRNA precursor. In the leaves of the NUS1-deficient mutant, accumulation of chloroplast rRNA during early leaf development was impaired and chloroplast translation/transcription capacity was severely suppressed under low temperature. Our results suggest that NUS1 is involved in the regulation of chloroplast RNA metabolism and promotes the establishment of the plastid genetic system during early chloroplast development under cold stress conditions.
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