Suppression of repeat-mediated gross mitochondrial genome rearrangements by RecA in the moss Physcomitrella patens

Plant Cell. 2009 Apr;21(4):1182-94. doi: 10.1105/tpc.108.064709. Epub 2009 Apr 7.


RecA and its ubiquitous homologs are crucial components in homologous recombination. Besides their eukaryotic nuclear counterparts, plants characteristically possess several bacterial-type RecA proteins localized to chloroplasts and/or mitochondria, but their roles are poorly understood. Here, we analyzed the role of the only mitochondrial RecA in the moss Physcomitrella patens. Disruption of the P. patens mitochondrial recA gene RECA1 caused serious defects in plant growth and development and abnormal mitochondrial morphology. Analyses of mitochondrial DNA in disruptants revealed that frequent DNA rearrangements occurred at multiple loci. Structural analysis suggests that the rearrangements, which in some cases were associated with partial deletions and amplifications of mitochondrial DNA, were due to aberrant recombination between short (<100 bp) direct and inverted repeats in which the sequences were not always identical. Such repeats are abundant in the mitochondrial genome, and interestingly many are located in group II introns. These results suggest that RECA1 does not promote but rather suppresses recombination among short repeats scattered throughout the mitochondrial genome, thereby maintaining mitochondrial genome stability. We propose that RecA-mediated homologous recombination plays a crucial role in suppression of short repeat-mediated genome rearrangements in plant mitochondria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Bryopsida / genetics*
  • Bryopsida / growth & development
  • Bryopsida / ultrastructure
  • DNA, Complementary / metabolism
  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Gene Rearrangement*
  • Genome, Mitochondrial*
  • Mitochondria / genetics*
  • Mitochondria / ultrastructure
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plant Proteins / chemistry
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / physiology*
  • Rec A Recombinases / genetics
  • Rec A Recombinases / physiology*
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Deletion


  • DNA, Complementary
  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Plant Proteins
  • Rec A Recombinases