Year of Publication


Document Type





Plant Physiology

First Advisor

Bruce Downie

Second Advisor

Robert L. Houtz


Conversion of aspartate and asparagine residues to isoaspartate is a prevalent covalent protein modification in cells. The accumulation of these altered residues can lead to the loss of protein function and the consequent loss of cellular function. The L-ISOASPARTATE METHYLTRANSFERASE (EC (PIMT) iteratively methylates abnormal isoaspartyl residues leading to conversion to L-aspartate, thereby mitigating the injurious effects of aging. Arabidopsis thaliana is unique among eukaryotes studied to date in that it possesses two genes (At3g48330 (PIMT1) and At5g50240 (PIMT2)) encoding PIMT. The PIMT2 gene exhibits a complex transcriptional control involving different transcriptional initiation sites and 5'- and 3'- alternative splice site selection in the first intron. Varying the transcriptional initiation site results in alternative targeting of the PIMT2 proteins thus produced to: 1) the nucleus, or 2) the cytoplasm, while PIMT1 is cytosolic. Inclusion of a 51 nucleotide 5 alternatively spliced sequence with or without a nine nucleotide 3 alternatively spliced sequence dramatically alteres the subcellular protein localization from the cytoplasm and around the chloroplast to inside the chloroplast. All recombinant PIMT2 isoform tested exhibit PIMT activity, although solubility varied among them. Multiplex RT-PCR was used to establish PIMT1 and PIMT2 transcript presence and abundance, relative to -TUBULIN, in various tissues and under a variety of stresses imposed on seeds and seedlings. PIMT1 transcript is constitutively present but can increase, along with PIMT2, in developing seeds presumably in response to increasing endogenous ABA. Transcript from PIMT2 also increases in establishing seedlings due to exogenous ABA application or applied stress presumably through an ABA-dependent pathway. Furthermore, Cleaved Amplified Polymorphic Sequence analysis of the PIMT2 amplicons has shown that the ratio among the splicing variants alters upon ABA application, implicating a role for the spliceosome or differential RNA stability in orchestrating the plant's response to stress. T-DNA insertional mutants of both genes were isolated but no obvious phenotype has been identified. The double mutant has been generated and will be evaluated.