Intrinsically disordered plant protein PARCL co-localizes with RNA in phase-separated condensates whose formation can be regulated by mutating the PLD.

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In higher plants, long-distance RNA transport via the phloem is crucial for communication between distant plant tissues to align development with stress responses and reproduction. Several recent studies suggest that specific RNAs are among the potential long-distance information transmitters. However, it is yet not well understood how these RNAs enter the phloem stream, how they are transported, and how they are released at their destination. It was proposed that phloem RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) facilitate RNA translocation. In the present study, we characterized two orthologs of the phloem-associated RNA chaperone-like (PARCL) protein from Arabidopsis thaliana and Brassica napus at functional and structural levels. Microscale thermophoresis (MST) showed that these phloem-abundant proteins can bind a broad spectrum of RNAs and show RNA chaperone activity in FRET-based in vitro assays. Our SAXS experiments revealed a high degree of disorder, typical for RNA-binding proteins. In agroinfiltrated tobacco plants, eYFP-PARCL proteins mainly accumulated in nuclei and nucleoli and formed cytosolic and nuclear condensates. We found that formation of these condensates was impaired by tyrosine-to-glutamate mutations in the predicted prion-like domain (PLD), while C-terminal serine-to-glutamate mutations did not affect condensation but reduced RNA binding and chaperone activity. Furthermore, our in vitro experiments confirmed phase separation of PARCL and co-localization of RNA with the condensates, while mutation as well as phosphorylation of the PLD reduced phase separation. Together, our results suggest that RNA binding and condensate formation of PARCL can be regulated independently by modification of the C-terminus and/ or the PLD.