The ubiquitin-26S proteasome system and autophagy relay proteome homeostasis regulation during silique development

Plant J. 2022 Jul 3. doi: 10.1111/tpj.15891. Online ahead of print.


Functional studies of the ubiquitin-26S proteasome system (UPS) have demonstrated that virtually all aspects of the plant's life involve UPS-mediated turnover of abnormal or short-lived proteins. However, the role of the UPS during development, including in seeds and fruits, remains to be determined in detail, although mutants of several of its core elements are known to be embryonically lethal. Unfortunately, early termination of embryogenesis limits the possibility to characterize the activities of the UPS in reproductive organs. Given both the economic and the societal impact of reproductive production, such studies are indispensable. Here, we systematically compared expression of multiple 26S proteasome subunits along with the dynamics of proteasome activity and total protein ubiquitylation in seedlings, developing siliques, and embryos of Arabidopsis thaliana. Since autophagy plays the second largest role in maintaining proteome stability, we parallelly studied three rate-limiting enzymes that are involved in autophagy flux. Our experiments unexpectedly discovered that, in contrast to the activities in seedlings, both protein and transcript levels of six selected 26S proteasome subunits gradually decline in immature siliques or embryos toward maturation while the autophagy flux rises despite the nutrient-rich condition. We also discovered a reciprocal turnover pathway between the proteasome and autophagy. While the autophagy flux is suppressed in seedlings by UPS-mediated degradation of its three key enzymes, transcriptional reprogramming dampens this process in siliques, which in turn stimulates a bulk autophagic degradation of proteasomes. Collectively, our study of the developmental changes of the UPS and autophagy activities suggests that they relay the proteome homeostasis regulation in early silique and/or seed development, highlighting their interactions during development.

Keywords: 26S proteasome; autophagy; cellular homeostasis; development; protein degradation; ubiquitylation.