Chloroplast genes are transcribed as polycistronic precursor RNAs that give rise to a multitude of processing products down to monocistronic forms. Translation of these mRNAs is realized by bacterial type 70S ribosomes. A larger fraction of these ribosomes is attached to chloroplast membranes. This study analyzed transcriptome-wide distribution of plastid mRNAs between soluble and membrane fractions of purified plastids using microarray analyses and validating RNA gel blot hybridizations. To determine the impact of light on mRNA localization, we used etioplasts, greening plastids and mature chloroplasts from Zea mays
as a source for membrane and soluble extracts. The results show that the three plastid types display an almost identical distribution of RNAs between the two organellar fractions, which is confirmed by quantitative RNA gel blot analyses. Furthermore, they reveal that different RNAs processed from polycistronic precursors show transcript-autonomous distribution between stroma and membrane fractions. Disruption of ribosomes leads to release of mRNAs from membranes, demonstrating that attachment is likely a direct consequence of translation. We conclude that plastid mRNA distribution is a stable feature of different plastid types, setting up rapid chloroplast translation in any plastid type.
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