AtUBL5 regulates growth and development through pre-mRNA splicing in Arabidopsis thaliana

Ubiquitin-like proteins play important roles in the regulation of many biological processes. UBL5 (Ubiquitin-like protein 5)/Hub1 (Homologous to ubiquitin 1), a member of the ubiquitin family, acts as a ubiquitin-like modifier on a specific target, the spliceosomal protein Snu66, in yeast and human cells. The 22nd aspartic acid (Asp22) is involved in the attachment of Hub1 to the Hub1 interaction domain (HIND) of Snu66 in yeast to modulate spliceosomal activity. Hub1 differs from other modifiers which interact covalently with their targets. It modulates pre-mRNA splicing by binding to Snu66 non-covalently in both yeast and human cells. However, the molecular mechanisms of Hub1-mediated pre-mRNA splicing in plant systems remains unclear. To better understand the function of Hub1 in plants, we examined the role of this ubiquitin-like modifier in Arabidopsis thaliana, which has two Hub1 homologues. Arabidopsis UBL5/Hub1(UBL5) is highly conserved at the amino acid level, compared to eukaryotic homologues in both plants and animals. In this study, phenotypic analysis of A. thaliana with reduced UBL5 gene expression, generated by RNA interference of AtUBL5a and AtUBL5b were performed. Interestingly, knock down plants of AtUBL5 showed abnormalities in root elongation, plant development, and auxin response. AtUBL5b is highly expressed in the vascular tissue of the leaf, stem, and root tissue. Yeast two-hybrid analysis revealed that AtUBL5a and AtUBL5b interact with the putative splicing factor AtPRP38 through its C-terminal domain (AtPRP38C). Knock down of AtUBL5b resulted in a pattern of insufficient pre-mRNA splicing in several introns of AtCDC2, and in introns of IAA1, IAA4, and IAA5. Defects of pre-mRNA splicing in an AtPRP38 mutant resulted in an insufficient pre-mRNA splicing pattern in the intron of IAA1. Based on these results, we showed that AtUBL5b positively regulates plant root elongation and development through pre-mRNA splicing with AtPRP38C in A. thaliana.