The chloroplast hosts photosynthesis and a variety of metabolic pathways that are essential for plant viability and acclimation processes. In this study, we show that the sole plastid UMP kinase (PUMPKIN) in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) associates specifically with the introns of the plastid transcripts trnG-UCC, trnV-UAC, petB, petD, and ndhA in vivo, as revealed by RNA immunoprecipitation coupled with deep sequencing (RIP-Seq); and that PUMPKIN can bind RNA efficiently in vitro. Analyses of target transcripts showed that PUMPKIN affects their metabolism. Null alleles and knockdowns of pumpkin were viable but clearly affected in growth, plastid translation, and photosynthetic performance. In pumpkin mutants, the levels of many plastid transcripts were reduced, while the amounts of others were increased, as revealed by RNA-Seq analysis. PUMPKIN is a homomultimeric, plastid-localized protein that forms in vivo RNA-containing megadalton-sized complexes and catalyzes the ATP-dependent conversion of UMP to UDP in vitro with properties characteristic of known essential eubacterial UMP kinases. A moonlighting function of PUMPKIN combining RNA and pyrimidine metabolism is discussed.

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