DNA ligase 1 (AtLIG1) is the only essential DNA ligase activity in Arabidopsis and is implicated in the important processes of DNA replication, repair and recombination and in transgene insertion during Agrobacterium-mediated plant transformations. The mitochondrial and nuclear forms of DNA ligase 1 in Arabidopsis are translated from a single mRNA species through the control of translation initiation from either the first (M1) or second (M2) in-frame AUG codons respectively. Translation from a third in-frame AUG codon (M3) occurs on transcripts in which M1 and M2 are mutagenized to stop codons. Wild-type AtLIG1–GFP constructs (where GFP stands for green fluorescent protein) can be targeted in planta to both the nucleus and mitochondria. AtLIG1–GFP translation from M1 specifically targets the fusion protein only to mitochondria in planta, whereas translation from M2 or M3 targets the fusion protein only to the nucleus. Interestingly, the AtLIG1–GFP fusion protein in which translation is initiated from M1 contains both an N-terminal mtPS (mitochondrial targeting presequence) and a nuclear localization signal; nonetheless, this protein is only targeted to the mitochondria. This result raises intriguing questions on the translational control mechanisms that regulate how the protein products of a single transcript are targeted to more than one cellular compartment.

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