RNA Editing in Kinetoplastid Mitochondria

FASEB J. 1993 Jan;7(1):54-63. doi: 10.1096/fasebj.7.1.8422975.


RNA editing in the mitochondrion of kinetoplastid protozoa results in the posttranscriptional addition and deletion of uridine residues in mRNAs. Editing of mRNAs can lead to the formation of initiation codons for mitochondrial translation, the correction of frame-shifted genes at the RNA level, and in extensively edited mRNAs, the formation of complete reading frames. Kinetoplastid RNA editing requires that genetic information from two or more separately transcribed genes be brought together to form the mature, edited mRNA. The information necessary for the proper insertion or deletion of uridines in the mRNA is present in small mitochondrial transcripts termed guide RNAs (gRNAs). Editing of mRNAs appears to be associated with a high molecular weight complex, called the editosome, containing specific gRNAs, unedited mRNAs, and proteins. Editing is likely a two-step process involving first the breakage of a phosphodiester bond at the editing site and formation of a chimeric molecule with a gRNA covalently joined to the 5' end of the 3' portion of an mRNA. The chimera is resolved by the rejoining of the 5' end of the mRNA to the 3' portion of the mRNA with the addition or deletion of a uridine at the junction point. Two models are proposed for the biochemical mechanism of RNA editing. The first is an enzymatic cascade of cleavage and ligation while the other supports successive rounds of transesterification. The obvious functional necessity for editing in kinetoplastid mitochondria is the formation of translatable mRNAs. Far less clear is the evolutionary origin of editing and the role editing plays in regulating mitochondrial gene expression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Kinetoplastida / metabolism*
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • RNA Editing*
  • RNA, Protozoan / metabolism*


  • RNA, Protozoan