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Neofunctionalization of Mitochondrial Proteins and Incorporation into Signaling Networks in Plants

  • Sbatie Lama
  • Martyna Broda
  • Zahra Abbas
  • Dries Vaneechoutte
  • Katharina Belt
  • Torbjörn Säll
  • Klaas Vandepoele
  • Olivier Van Aken
Publishing year: 2019
Language: English
Pages: 974-989
Publication/Series: Molecular biology and evolution
Volume: 36
Issue: 5
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Oxford University Press

Abstract english

Because of their symbiotic origin, many mitochondrial proteins are well conserved across eukaryotic kingdoms. It is however less obvious how specific lineages have obtained novel nuclear-encoded mitochondrial proteins. Here, we report a case of mitochondrial neofunctionalization in plants. Phylogenetic analysis of genes containing the Domain of Unknown Function 295 (DUF295) revealed that the domain likely originated in Angiosperms. The C-terminal DUF295 domain is usually accompanied by an N-terminal F-box domain, involved in ubiquitin ligation via binding with ASK1/SKP1-type proteins. Due to gene duplication, the gene family has expanded rapidly, with 94 DUF295-related genes in Arabidopsis thaliana alone. Two DUF295 family subgroups have uniquely evolved and quickly expanded within Brassicaceae. One of these subgroups has completely lost the F-box, but instead obtained strongly predicted mitochondrial targeting peptides. We show that several representatives of this DUF295 Organellar group are effectively targeted to plant mitochondria and chloroplasts. Furthermore, many DUF295 Organellar genes are induced by mitochondrial dysfunction, whereas F-Box DUF295 genes are not. In agreement, several Brassicaceae-specific DUF295 Organellar genes were incorporated in the evolutionary much older ANAC017-dependent mitochondrial retrograde signaling pathway. Finally, a representative set of DUF295 T-DNA insertion mutants was created. No obvious aberrant phenotypes during normal growth and mitochondrial dysfunction were observed, most likely due to the large extent of gene duplication and redundancy. Overall, this study provides insight into how novel mitochondrial proteins can be created via "intercompartmental" gene duplication events. Moreover, our analysis shows that these newly evolved genes can then be specifically integrated into relevant, pre-existing coexpression networks.


  • Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Botany
  • evolution
  • mitochondria
  • neofunctionalization
  • retrograde signaling
  • stress


  • ISSN: 0737-4038
Olivier van Aken
E-mail: olivier [dot] van_aken [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Senior lecturer

Molecular Cell Biology

+46 46 222 94 13



Research group

Plant Biology



Doctoral students and postdocs

PhD students, main supervisor

Cuong Tran