In flowering plant plastids and mitochondria, multiple organellar RNA editing factor (MORF/RIP) proteins are required at most sites for efficient C to U RNA editing catalyzed by the RNA editosome. MORF proteins harbor a conserved stretch of residues (MORF-box), form homo- and heteromers and interact with selected PPR (pentatricopeptide repeat) proteins, which recognize each editing site. The molecular function of the MORF-box remains elusive since it shares no sequence similarity with known domains. We determined structures of the A. thaliana mitochondrial MORF1 and chloroplast MORF9 MORF-boxes which both adopt a novel globular fold (MORF domain). Our structures state a paradigmatic model for MORF domains and their specific dimerization via a hydrophobic interface. We cross-validate the interface by yeast two-hybrid studies and pulldown assays employing structure-based mutants. We find a structural similarity of the MORF domain to an N-terminal ferredoxin-like domain (NFLD), which confers RNA substrate positioning in bacterial 4-thio-uracil tRNA synthetases, implying direct RNA contacts of MORF proteins during RNA editing. With the MORF1 and MORF9 structures we elucidate a yet unknown fold, corroborate MORF interaction studies, validate the mechanism of MORF multimerization by structure-based mutants and pave the way towards a complete structural characterization of the plant RNA editosome.
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