A chloroplastic RNA ligase activity analogous to the bacterial and archaeal 2'-5’ RNA ligase

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Bacteria and archaea contain a 2’-5’ RNA ligase that seals in vitro 2’,3’-cyclic phosphodiester and 5’-hydroxyl RNA termini, generating a 2’,5’-phosphodiester bond. In our search for an RNA ligase able to circularize the monomeric linear replication intermediates of viroids belonging to the family Avsunviroidae, which replicate in the chloroplast, we have identified in spinach (Spinacea oleracea L.) chloroplasts a new RNA ligase activity whose properties resemble those of the bacterial and archaeal 2’-5’ RNA ligase. The spinach chloroplastic RNA ligase recognizes the 5’-hydroxyl and 2’,3’-cyclic phosphodiester termini of Avocado sunblotch viroid and Eggplant latent viroid RNAs produced by hammerhead-mediated self-cleavage, yielding circular products linked through an atypical, most likely 2’,5’-phosphodiester, bond. The enzyme neither requires divalent cations as cofactors, nor NTPs as substrate. The reaction apparently reaches equilibrium at a low ratio between the final circular product and the linear initial substrate. Even if its involvement in viroid replication seems unlikely, the identification of a 2’-5’ RNA ligase activity in higher plant chloroplasts, with properties very similar to an analogous enzyme widely distributed in bacterial and archaeal proteomes, is intriguing and suggests an important biological role so far unknown.

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