Michael Tillich

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlín, Berlin, Germany

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Publications (10)72.8 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Chloroplast RNA metabolism is mediated by a multitude of nuclear encoded factors, many of which are highly specific for individual RNA processing events. In addition, a family of chloroplast ribonucleoproteins (cpRNPs) has been suspected to regulate larger sets of chloroplast transcripts. This together with their propensity for posttranslational modifications in response to external cues suggested a potential role of cpRNPs in the signal-dependent coregulation of chloroplast genes. We show here on a transcriptome-wide scale that the Arabidopsis thaliana cpRNPs CP31A and CP29A (for 31 kD and 29 kD chloroplast protein, respectively), associate with large, overlapping sets of chloroplast transcripts. We demonstrate that both proteins are essential for resistance of chloroplast development to cold stress. They are required to guarantee transcript stability of numerous mRNAs at low temperatures and under these conditions also support specific processing steps. Fine mapping of cpRNP-RNA interactions in vivo suggests multiple points of contact between these proteins and their RNA ligands. For CP31A, we demonstrate an essential function in stabilizing sense and antisense transcripts that span the border of the small single copy region and the inverted repeat of the chloroplast genome. CP31A associates with the common 3'-terminus of these RNAs and protects them against 3'-exonucleolytic activity.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2012 · The Plant Cell
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    ABSTRACT: Chloroplast RNA metabolism has greatly diverged from the cyanobacterial ancestral state. The number of processing sites per transcript has increased and novel processing steps not found in bacteria have been acquired. Whereas many of the processing steps are essential for chloroplast development, it is unclear why such steps evolved at all. In this article, two hypotheses seeking to explain the complexity of chloroplast RNA metabolism are explored: the genomic debugging hypothesis and the nuclear regulation hypothesis. The nuclear-encoded RNA processing factors underlying these two alternative, but not mutually exclusive, hypotheses have very different characteristics. We propose that pentatricopeptide repeat (PPR) proteins, with high sequence specificity and essential roles in various RNA-processing steps, act largely as genomic debuggers. By contrast, the chloroplast ribonucleoproteins (cpRNPs), which are strongly modulated by external and internal stimuli, are suggested to be major players in transducing signals to the chloroplast transcript pool.
    Preview · Article · Mar 2010 · RNA biology
  • Michael Tillich · Kirsten Krause
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    ABSTRACT: In chloroplasts of higher plants, editing and splicing of transcripts is a prerequisite for the proper expression of the plastid genetic information and thereby for photosynthesis. Holoparasitic plants differ from photosynthetic plants in that they have abandoned a photoautotrophic life style, which has led to a reduction or loss of photosynthetic activity. The analysis of several parasitic plant plastid genomes revealed that coding capacities were reduced to different extent, encompassing genes that regulate plastid gene expression as well as photosynthesis genes. The reorganization of the plastid genome is also reflected in overall increases in point mutation rates that parallel the vanishing of RNA editing sites. Unprecedented in land plants is the parallel loss of the plastid gene coding for an intron maturase and all but one group IIa introns in two parasitic species. These observations highlight the plastome-wide effects that are associated with a relaxed evolutionary pressure in plants living a heterotrophic life style.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2010 · New Biotechnology
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    ABSTRACT: RNA editing in chloroplasts of angiosperms proceeds by C-to-U conversions at specific sites. Nuclear-encoded factors are required for the recognition of cis-elements located immediately upstream of editing sites. The ensemble of editing sites in a chloroplast genome differs widely between species, and editing sites are thought to evolve rapidly. However, large-scale analyses of the evolution of individual editing sites have not yet been undertaken. Here, we analyzed the evolution of two chloroplast editing sites, matK-2 and matK-3, for which DNA sequences from thousands of angiosperm species are available. Both sites are found in most major taxa, including deep-branching families such as the nymphaeaceae. However, 36 isolated taxa scattered across the entire tree lack a C at one of the two matK editing sites. Tests of several exemplary species from this in silico analysis of matK processing unexpectedly revealed that one of the two sites remain unedited in almost half of all species examined. A comparison of sequences between editors and non-editors showed that specific nucleotides co-evolve with the C at the matK editing sites, suggesting that these nucleotides are critical for editing-site recognition. (i) Both matK editing sites were present in the common ancestor of all angiosperms and have been independently lost multiple times during angiosperm evolution.(ii) The editing activities corresponding to matK-2 and matK-3 are unstable.(iii) A small number of third-codon positions in the vicinity of editing sites are selectively constrained independent of the presence of the editing site, most likely because of interacting RNA-binding proteins.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2009 · BMC Evolutionary Biology
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    ABSTRACT: Chloroplast ribonucleoproteins (cpRNPs) are nuclear-encoded, highly abundant, and light-regulated RNA binding proteins. They have been shown to be involved in chloroplast RNA processing and stabilization in vitro and are phylogenetically related to the well-described heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoproteins (hnRNPs). cpRNPs have been found associated with mRNAs present in chloroplasts and have been regarded as nonspecific stabilizers of chloroplast transcripts. Here, we demonstrate that null mutants of the cpRNP family member CP31A exhibit highly specific and diverse defects in chloroplast RNA metabolism. First, analysis of cp31a and cp31a/cp31b double mutants uncovers that these 2 paralogous genes participate nonredundantly in a combinatorial fashion in processing a subset of chloroplast editing sites in vivo. Second, a genome-wide analysis of chloroplast transcript accumulation in cp31a mutants detected a virtually complete loss of the chloroplast ndhF mRNA and lesser reductions for specific other mRNAs. Fluorescence analyses show that the activity of the NADH dehydrogenase complex, which also includes the NdhF subunit, is defective in cp31a mutants. This indicates that cpRNPs are important in vivo for calibrating the expression levels of specific chloroplast mRNAs and impact chloroplast physiology. Taken together, the specificity and combinatorial aspects of cpRNP functions uncovered suggest that these chloroplast proteins are functional equivalents of nucleocytosolic hnRNPs.
    Full-text · Article · May 2009 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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    ABSTRACT: The gene expression system of chloroplasts is far more complex than that of their cyanobacterial progenitor. This gain in complexity affects in particular RNA metabolism, specifically the transcription and maturation of RNA. Mature chloroplast RNA is generated by a plethora of nuclear-encoded proteins acquired or recruited during plant evolution, comprising additional RNA polymerases and sigma factors, and sequence-specific RNA maturation factors promoting RNA splicing, editing, end formation and translatability. Despite years of intensive research, we still lack a comprehensive explanation for this complexity. We inspected the available literature and genome databases for information on components of RNA metabolism in land plant chloroplasts. In particular, new inventions of chloroplast-specific mechanisms and the expansion of some gene/protein families detected in land plants lead us to suggest that the primary function of the additional nuclear-encoded components found in chloroplasts is the transgenomic suppression of point mutations, fixation of which occurred due to an enhanced genetic drift exhibited by chloroplast genomes. We further speculate that a fast evolution of transgenomic suppressors occurred after the water-to-land transition of plants. Our inspections indicate that several chloroplast-specific mechanisms evolved in land plants to remedy point mutations that occurred after the water-to-land transition. Thus, the complexity of chloroplast gene expression evolved to guarantee the functionality of chloroplast genetic information and may not, with some exceptions, be involved in regulatory functions.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2008 · BMC Biology
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    Michael Tillich · Pascal Lehwark · Brian R Morton · Uwe G Maier
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    ABSTRACT: RNA editing alters the nucleotide sequence of an RNA molecule so that it deviates from the sequence of its DNA template. Different RNA-editing systems are found in the major eukaryotic lineages, and these systems are thought to have evolved independently. In this study, we provide a detailed analysis of data on C-to-U editing sites in land plant chloroplasts and propose a model for the evolution of RNA editing in land plants. First, our data suggest that the limited RNA-editing system of seed plants and the much more extensive systems found in hornworts and ferns are of monophyletic origin. Further, although some eukaryotic editing systems appear to have evolved to regulate gene expression, or at least are now involved in gene regulation, there is no evidence that RNA editing plays a role in gene regulation in land plant chloroplasts. Instead, our results suggest that land plant chloroplast C-to-U RNA editing originated as a mechanism to generate variation at the RNA level, which could complement variation at the DNA level. Under this model, many of the original sites, particularly in seed plants, have been subsequently lost due to mutation at the DNA level, and the function of extant sites is merely to conserve certain codons. This is the first comprehensive model for the evolution of the chloroplast RNA-editing system of land plants and may also be applicable to the evolution of RNA editing in plant mitochondria.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2006 · Molecular Biology and Evolution
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    ABSTRACT: RNA editing in plant organelles is mediated by site-specific, nuclear-encoded factors. Previous data suggested that the maintenance of these factors depends on the presence of their rapidly evolving cognate sites. The surprising ability of allotetraploid Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco) to edit a foreign site in the chloroplast ndhA messenger RNA was thought to be inherited from its diploid male ancestor, Nicotiana tomentosiformis. Here, we show that the same ndhA editing activity is also present in Nicotiana sylvestris, which is the female diploid progenitor of tobacco and which lacks the ndhA site. Hence, heterologous editing is not simply a result of tobacco's allopolyploid genome organization. Analyses of other editing sites after sexual or somatic transfer between land plants showed that heterologous editing occurs at a surprisingly high frequency. This suggests that the corresponding editing activities are conserved despite the absence of their target sites, potentially because they serve other functions in the plant cell.
    Preview · Article · Apr 2006 · EMBO Reports
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    ABSTRACT: Post-transcriptional maturation of plastid-encoded mRNAs from land plants includes editing by making cytidine to uridine alterations at highly specific positions; this usually restores codon identities for conserved amino acids that are important for the proper function of the affected proteins. In contrast to the rather constant number of editing sites their location varies greatly, even between closely related taxa. Here, we experimentally determined the specific pattern of editing sites (the editotype) of the plastid genome of Arabidopsis thaliana ecotype Columbia (Col-0). Based on phylogenetic analyses of plastid open reading frames, we identified 28 editing sites. Two editing events in the genes matK and ndhB seem to have evolved late during the evolution of flowering plants. Strikingly, they are embedded in almost identical sequence elements and seem to be phylogenetically co-processed. This suggests that the two sites are recognized by the same trans-factor, which could help to explain the hitherto enigmatic gain of editing sites in evolution. In order to trace variations in editotype at the subspecies level we examined two other A. thaliana accessions, Cape Verde Islands (Cvi-0) and Wassilewskija (Ws-2), for the Col-0 editing sites. Both Cvi-0 and Ws-2 possess and process the whole set of editing sites as determined in Col-0, but the consequences of RNA editing differ at one position between the ecotypes.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2005 · The Plant Journal
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    ABSTRACT: RNA editing is unique among post-transcriptional processes in plastids, as it exhibits extraordinary phylogenetic dynamics leading to species-specific editing site patterns. The evolutionary loss of a site is considered to entail the loss of the corresponding nuclear-encoded site-specific factor, which prevents the editing of foreign, i.e. heterologous, sites. We investigated the editing of short 'spliced' and 'unspliced' ndhA gene fragments from spinach in Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco) in vivo using biolistic transformation. Surprisingly, it turned out that the spinach site is edited in the heterologous nuclear background. Furthermore, only exon-exon fusions were edited, whereas intron-containing messages remained unprocessed. A homologue of the spinach site was found to be present and edited in Nicotiana tomentosiformis, representing the paternal parent, but absent from Nicotiana sylvestris, representing the maternal parent of tobacco. Our data show that: (i) the cis-determinants for ndhA editing are split by an intron; (ii) the editing capacity cannot be deduced from editing sites; and (iii) allopolyploidization can increase the editing capacity, which implies that it can influence speciation processes in evolution.
    Preview · Article · Oct 2001 · The EMBO Journal

Publication Stats

358 Citations
72.80 Total Impact Points


  • 2006-2012
    • Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
      • Department of Biology
      Berlín, Berlin, Germany
    • Philipps University of Marburg
      Marburg, Hesse, Germany
  • 2001-2005
    • Ludwig-Maximilian-University of Munich
      • Division of Botany
      München, Bavaria, Germany