The 26S proteasome plays fundamental roles in the degradation of short-lived regulatory proteins, thereby controlling diverse cellular processes. In Arabidopsis, the essential RPT2 subunit is encoded by two highly homologous genes: RPT2a and RPT2b. Currently, only RPT2a has been reported to regulate various developmental processes, including the maintenance of the root apical meristem (RAM), although the roles of RPT2a in the RAM are still obscure. Here, we analyzed the cell type-specific requirement for RPT2a. When RPT2a was expressed locally in the rpt2a mutant, pleiotropic defects in the RAM, such as cell death and distorted cellular organization, were rescued differently, suggesting that RPT2a regulates various specific activities, which converge to maintain the RAM. On the other hand, the homologous RPT2b was also expressed in meristems, and the expression of RPT2b protein under the control of the RPT2a promoter complemented the rpt2a RAM defects, although the rpt2b mutant showed no obvious defect in all developmental aspects we examined. These results show that RPT2b might work in the RAM, but is dispensable for RAM maintenance in the presence of RPT2a. In contrast, the rpt2a rpt2b double mutant was lethal in male and female gametophytes, suggesting that RPT2a and RPT2b are redundantly required for gametogenesis. Furthermore, we showed that similar meristematic and gametophytic defects were caused by mutations in other subunit genes, RPT5a and RPT5b, suggesting that proper activity of the proteasome, not an RPT2-specific function, is required. Taken together, our results suggest that RPT2a and RPT2b contribute differently to the proteasome activity required for each developmental context.
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