Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Albrecht G. von Arnim

Committee Members

Barry D. Bruce, Bruce D. McKee, David A. Brian


Molecular functions of eukaryotic initiation factor 3 (eIF3) in translation are manifold, encompassing events from initiation complex assembly to translation termination. The contribution of the individual subunits of eIF3 to its multiple activities is quite unclear. It has been hypothesized that several of its 13 subunits contribute to mRNA specific regulation. Prior research had established that the h subunit of eIF3 in Arabidopsis was required for translation of specific mRNAs as well as for organ formation and meristem development. This study aims towards understanding the functions of individual subunits of eIF3 in the context of plant development and to further define the role of eIF3h at the molecular level.

This dissertation describes an effort to identify mutations affecting each of the 13 eIF3 subunits. Using a panel of pollen-specific fluorescent marker genes, eIF3 subunits e, h and i1 were demonstrated to be essential for normal male gametophyte development. Furthermore, subunits b and c proved to be essential for embryo development. In contrast, a mutation in eIF3k revealed no phenotypic abnormalities. This work represents a systematic effort to attribute functions to many of the eIF3 subunits in growth and development in a multicellular eukaryote.

The h subunit of eIF3 is necessary for the efficient translation of specific mRNAs in Arabidopsis. In particular, eIF3h fosters the translation of those mRNAs that harbor multiple upstream open reading frames (uORFs) in their 5’ leader. The specific molecular activity of eIF3h was investigated by structure-function analysis of the 5' leader of the Arabidopsis AtbZip11 mRNA, which harbors a set of four uORFs that is evolutionarily conserved. By pairing extensive mutagenesis of the AtbZip11 5' leader with gene expression analysis in Arabidopsis seedlings, it was revealed that eIF3h helps the ribosome to retain its reinitiation competence during uORF translation. These data establish a function for the h subunit of eIF3 in a special case of translation initiation, reinitiation.

Finally, the molecular events during translation reinitiation were investigated further for a functional cooperation between eIF3h and the large subunit of the ribosome, given that the large ribosomal subunit had been implicated in reinitiation in other biological contexts. Reinitiation profiling using the AtbZip11 leader demonstrated that a protein of the large ribosomal subunit, RPL24B, bolsters reinitiation similar to eIF3h. Taken together, there exists a functional cooperation between the large ribosomal subunit and eIF3 that helps ribosomes to reinitiate after translation of uORFs.

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