Identification of small non-coding RNAs from mitochondria and chloroplasts

Nucleic Acids Res. 2006;34(14):3842-52. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkl448. Epub 2006 Aug 9.


Small non-protein-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) have been identified in a wide spectrum of organisms ranging from bacteria to humans. In eukarya, systematic searches for ncRNAs have so far been restricted to the nuclear or cytosolic compartments of cells. Whether or not small stable non-coding RNA species also exist in cell organelles, in addition to tRNAs or ribosomal RNAs, is unknown. We have thus generated cDNA libraries from size-selected mammalian mitochondrial RNA and plant chloroplast RNA and searched for small ncRNA species in these two types of DNA-containing cell organelles. In total, we have identified 18 novel candidates for organellar ncRNAs in these two cellular compartments and confirmed expression of six of them by northern blot analysis or RNase A protection assays. Most candidate ncRNA genes map to intergenic regions of the organellar genomes. As found previously in bacteria, the presumptive ancestors of present-day chloroplasts and mitochondria, we also observed examples of antisense ncRNAs that potentially could target organelle-encoded mRNAs. The structural features of the identified ncRNAs as well as their possible cellular functions are discussed. The absence from our libraries of abundant small RNA species that are not encoded by the organellar genomes suggests that the import of RNAs into cell organelles is of very limited significance or does not occur at all.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chloroplasts / genetics
  • Gene Library
  • Genome, Plant
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • RNA / analysis
  • RNA / genetics*
  • RNA, Chloroplast / analysis
  • RNA, Chloroplast / genetics*
  • RNA, Mitochondrial
  • RNA, Small Nuclear / analysis
  • RNA, Small Nuclear / genetics
  • RNA, Untranslated / analysis
  • RNA, Untranslated / genetics*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Tobacco / genetics


  • RNA, Chloroplast
  • RNA, Mitochondrial
  • RNA, Small Nuclear
  • RNA, Untranslated
  • RNA