Motif-based evidence for a link between a plastid translocon substrate and rhomboid proteases
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Of the organisms with sequenced genomes, plants appear to possess the most rhomboid protease-encoding genes. However, our knowledge of processes in plants that involve Regulated Intramembrane Proteolysis (RIP) and rhomboid proteases remains low. As expressed recently by other researchers, finding a natural substrate for a rhomboid protease represents the biggest experimental challenge. Using yeast mitochondria-based assays, a potential link between the plastid translocon component Tic40 and organellar rhomboid proteases was recently uncovered. In this particular link, rhomboid proteases appear capable of influencing the pattern of imported Tic40 in yeast mitochondria. Tic40 may thus represent a natural plant target of organellar rhomboid proteases. Here, we obtained further motif-oriented evidence supporting Tic40 as a natural plant rhomboid substrate. A comparative analysis of sequences revealed that Tic40 may also possess similar TMD motifs found in the model substrate, Spitz. Rhomboid proteases often require these motifs to cleave substrates within intramembrane environments. Using site-directed mutagenesis and yeast mitochondria assays, the impact of mutations occurring in the motifs ASISS, GV, QP, and GVGVG of Tic40 was assessed. In terms of cleavage and changing the pattern of imported Tic40, some of the mutations showed decreased activities and a few showed enhancements. More importantly, the overall observed pattern associated with select Tic40 mutations resembled the characteristics reported for the model substrates. In particular, mutations in the Tic40 GV motif produced similar results as that observed with Spitz, by drastically decreasing or increasing cleavage as a function of amino acid sequence.