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Arabidopsis DMP1 was discovered in a genome-wide screen for senescence-associated membrane proteins. DMP1 is a member of a novel plant-specific membrane protein family of unknown function. In rosette leaves DMP1 expression increases from very low background level several 100fold during senescence progression.
Expression of AtDMP1 fused to eGFP in Nicotiana benthamiana triggers a complex process of succeeding membrane remodeling events affecting the structure of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and the vacuole. Induction of spherical structures (“bulbs”), changes in the architecture of the ER from tubular to cisternal elements, expansion of smooth ER, formation of crystalloid ER, and emergence of vacuolar membrane sheets and foamy membrane structures inside the vacuole are proceeding in this order. In some cells it can be observed that the process culminates in cell death after breakdown of the entire ER network and the vacuole. The integrity of the plasma membrane, nucleus and Golgi vesicles are retained until this stage. In Arabidopsis thaliana plants expressing AtDMP1-eGFP by the 35S promoter massive ER and vacuole vesiculation is observed during the latest steps of leaf senescence, whereas earlier in development ER and vacuole morphology are not perturbed. Expression by the native DMP1 promoter visualizes formation of aggregates termed “boluses” in the ER membranes and vesiculation of the entire ER network, which precedes disintegration of the central vacuole during the latest stage of senescence in siliques, rosette and cauline leaves and in darkened rosette leaves. In roots tips, DMP1 is strongly expressed in the cortex undergoing vacuole biogenesis.
Our data suggest that DMP1 is directly or indirectly involved in membrane fission during breakdown of the ER and the tonoplast during leaf senescence and in membrane fusion during vacuole biogenesis in roots. We propose that these properties of DMP1, exacerbated by transient overexpression, may cause or contribute to the dramatic membrane remodeling events which lead to cell death in infiltrated tobacco leaves.