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Research Team Discovers New Mechanism of Light-Regulated Gene Expression in Plants

The team led by Dr. Shih-Long Tu at the Institute of Plant and Microbial Biology, Academia Sinica the new mechanism may have future agricultural applications.

Plants contain photoreceptor systems that are able to optimize light absorption to sense the quality, quantity, direction, and duration of light. One major class of photoreceptors are phytochromes, which mainly perceive red and far-red light. Previous studies have shown that the functioning of phytochromes at various levels are to control gene expression. Thus, suggesting that alternative splicing at the post-transcriptional level is also regulated by phytochromes. However, the exact mechanism still remain unclear.

Alternative splicing is a widespread mechanism in eukaryotes in which two or more different forms of mRNAs are generated from a single gene. It adds a new level of complexity to the transcriptome and proteome.

The study supported by the Ministry of Science and Technology in Taiwan and Academia Sinica provided further evidence on the molecular mechanism of moss phytochrome.

Dr. Tu’s team previously demonstrated that phytochromes participate in the regulation of alternative splicing in the model moss species Physcomitrella patens. In this study, they further provide molecular evidence that the moss phytochrome interacts with a splicing regulator named PphnRNP-H1 in the nucleus in a red light-dependent manner.

Genome-wide analyses demonstrated the involvement of both PphnRNP-H1 and PpPRP39-1 in light-mediated splicing regulation. Their findings strengthen the hypothesis that phytochromes directly participate in the regulation of pre-mRNA splicing by controlling splicing activity.

The first author is Ms. Chueh-Ju Shih, a Ph. D. student in Molecular and Biological Agricultural Sciences Program, Taiwan International Graduate Program, Academia Sinica. Other authors include Hsiang-Wen Chen, Hsin-Yu Hsieh, Yung-Hua Lai, Fang-Yi Chiu, Yu-Rong Chen, and Shih-Long Tu. [APBN]