Identification of a specific regulator of protein synthesis in plants

Researchers at the Center for Plant Biotechnology and Genomics (CBGP, UPM-INIA) reveal how plants modulate protein synthesis to adapt it to their living style.


Translation is a fundamental process that allows the synthesis of proteins from the genetic information contained in the RNA. This process, which is a main axis in the dogma of molecular biology, is carried out by a large number of proteins that constitute the translation machinery. The translational machinery is highly conserved, which assures that this vital process is basically similar in all eukaryotes.

Plants, in contrast to other eukaryotes, are photosynthetic beings that can generate carbohydrates (the main source of cellular energy) in the presence of light through photosynthesis. In addition, plants are sessile organisms that grow anchored to the soil. This prevents plants from hiding and escaping from adverse environmental conditions. The fact that plants have such important distinguishing features suggests that these living beings need specific mechanisms to adapt their growth and development to their intrinsic characteristics.

In this article, researchers from the Center for Plant Biotechnology and Genomics (CBGP-UPM / INIA) led by Dr. Castellano have identified a translation regulator called CERES that allows the synthesis of general and specific proteins at precise time frames during the light cycle, when the energy conditions of plants (determined by photosynthesis) are optimal. In addition, in this article, the researchers describe the particular (non-canonical) mechanism that allows CERES to recruit the translation machinery to the RNAs to be translated.

This study by Toribio et al. broadens the scientific knowledge about an essential process for life. Furthermore, it reveals how plants have developed during the evolution a specific mechanism to modulate protein synthesis in order to adapt it to the plants´ photosynthetic characteristics. This work also increases our understanding of how plants cope with the environment, one of the challenges addressed at COP25 for improving the sustainable production of crops in the context of climate change.

Mechanism that allows CERES to recruit the translational machinery in plants under specific light-related favourable conditions

Original Paper:

Toribio, R., Muñoz, A., Castro-Sanz, A.B., Merchante, C., Castellano, M.M. 2019. A novel eIF4E-interacting protein that forms non-canonical translation initiation complexes. Nature Plants 5, 1283–1296. DOI: 10.1038/s41477-019-0553-2