Double-stranded breaks (DSBs) in plant organelles are repaired via genomic rearrangements characterized by microhomologous repeats. These microhomologous signatures predict the existence of an unidentified enzymatic machinery capable of repairing of DSBs via microhomology-mediated end-joining (MMEJ) in plant organelles. Here, we show that organellar DNA polymerases from Arabidopsis thaliana (AtPolIA and AtPolIB) perform MMEJ using microhomologous sequences as short as six nucleotides. AtPolIs execute MMEJ by virtue of two specialized amino acid insertions located in their thumb subdomains. Single-stranded binding proteins (SSBs) unique to plants, AtWhirly2 and organellar single-stranded binding proteins (AtOSBs), hinder MMEJ, whereas canonical mitochondrial SSBs (AtmtSSB1 and AtmtSSB2) do not interfere with MMEJ. Our data predict that organellar DNA rearrangements by MMEJ are a consequence of a competition for the 3-OH of a DSBs. If AtWhirlies or AtOSBs gain access to the single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) region of a DSB, the reaction will shift towards high-fidelity routes like homologous recombination. Conversely MMEJ would be favored if AtPolIs or AtmtSSBs interact with the DSB. AtPolIs are not phylogenetically related to metazoan mitochondrial DNA polymerases, and the ability of AtPolIs to execute MMEJ may explain the abundance of DNA rearrangements in plant organelles in comparison to animal mitochondria.
ASJC Scopus subject areas