Ovules are fundamental for plant reproduction and crop yield as they are the precursors of seeds. Therefore, ovule specification is a critical developmental program. In Arabidopsis thaliana, ovule identity is redundantly conferred by the homeotic D-class genes SHATTERPROOF1 (SHP1), SHP2 and SEEDSTICK (STK), phylogenetically related to the MADS-domain regulatory gene AGAMOUS (AG), essential in floral organ specification. Previous studies have shown that the HUA-PEP activity, comprised of a suite of RNA-binding protein (RBP) encoding genes, regulates AG pre-mRNA processing and thus flower patterning and organ identity. Here, we report that the HUA-PEP activity additionally governs ovule morphogenesis. Accordingly, in severe hua-pep backgrounds ovules transform into flower organ-like structures. These homeotic transformations are most likely due to the dramatic reduction in SHP1, SHP2 and STK activity. Our molecular and genome-wide profiling strategies revealed the accumulation of prematurely terminated transcripts of D-class genes in hua-pep mutants and reduced amounts of their respective functional messengers, which points to pre-mRNA processing misregulation as the origin of the ovule developmental defects in such backgrounds. RNA processing and transcription are coordinated by the RNA polymerase II (RNAPII) carboxyl-terminal domain (CTD). Our results show that HUA-PEP activity members can interact with the CTD regulator C-TERMINAL DOMAIN PHOSPHATASE-LIKE1 (CPL1), supporting a co-transcriptional mode of action for the HUA-PEP activity. Our findings expand the portfolio of reproductive developmental programs in which HUA-PEP activity participates, and further substantiates the importance of RNA regulatory mechanisms (pre-mRNA co-transcriptional regulation) for correct gene expression during plant morphogenesis.
Rodríguez-Cazorla, E., Ortuño-Miquel, S., Candela, H., Bailey-Steinitz, L. J., Yanofsky, M. F., Martínez-Laborda, A., … Vera, A. (2018). Ovule identity mediated by pre-mRNA processing in Arabidopsis. PLoS Genetics, 14(1). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1007182