The rolA gene of Agrobacterium rhizogenes contains in its untranslated leader region a spliceosomal intron, which is spliced in Arabidopsis and in Nicotiana tabacum. Expression under the control of the 35S promoter from cauliflower mosaic virus of a rolA gene derivative defective in splicing still causes alterations of growth in transgenic tobacco plants. Splicing of rolA mRNA is required for efficient expression of the rolA phenotype in vivo. Moreover, splicing is required for efficient in vitro translation of the rolA mRNA. In contrast, expression of a 35S-rolA gene derivative with the ATG initiation codon replaced by ATA does not cause any phenotypical alteration. Mutations leading to amino acid substitutions at positions 37 and 40 of the rolA coding region were isolated as null mutants in Arabidopsis plants transgenic for the rolA gene. However, when expressed in tobacco under the control of the 35S promoter, they cause a rolA phenotype reduced in the expressivity of its traits. The molecular characterization of rolA mutants might be useful for understanding the biochemical function of the rolA protein.
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