Prof. Sodmergen and Prof. Xiaodong Su published a paper in JIPB.
Plant cells contain only small amounts of mitochondrial DNA, with the genomic information shared among multiple mitochondria. The biological relevance and molecular mechanism underlying this hallmark of plant cells has been unclear. Here, we report that Arabidopsis thaliana plants exhibited significantly reduced growth and mitochondrial dysfunction when the mitochondrial DNA copy number was increased to the degree that each mitochondrion possessed DNA. The amounts of mitochondrion-encoded transcripts increased several fold in the presence of elevated mitochondrial DNA levels. However, the efficiency of RNA editing decreased with this excess of mitochondrion-encoded transcripts, resulting in impaired assembly of mitochondrial complexes containing mitochondrial DNA-encoded subunits, such as respiratory complexes I and IV. These observations indicate the occurrence of nuclear–mitochondrial incompatibility in the cells with increased amounts of mitochondrial DNA and provide an initial answer to the fundamental question of why plant cells have much lower mitochondrial DNA levels than animal cells. We propose that keeping mitochondrial DNA levels low moderates nuclear–mitochondrial incompatibility and that this may be a crucial factor driving plant cells to restrict the copy numbers of mitochondrial DNA.