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1.  Genomic reduction and evolution of novel genetic membranes and protein-targeting machinery in eukaryote-eukaryote chimaeras (meta-algae). 
Chloroplasts originated just once, from cyanobacteria enslaved by a biciliate protozoan to form the plant kingdom (green plants, red and glaucophyte algae), but subsequently, were laterally transferred to other lineages to form eukaryote-eukaryote chimaeras or meta-algae. This process of secondary symbiogenesis (permanent merger of two phylogenetically distinct eukaryote cells) has left remarkable traces of its evolutionary role in the more complex topology of the membranes surrounding all non-plant (meta-algal) chloroplasts. It took place twice, soon after green and red algae diverged over 550 Myr ago to form two independent major branches of the eukaryotic tree (chromalveolates and cabozoa), comprising both meta-algae and numerous secondarily non-photosynthetic lineages. In both cases, enslavement probably began by evolving a novel targeting of endomembrane vesicles to the perialgal vacuole to implant host porter proteins for extracting photosynthate. Chromalveolates arose by such enslavement of a unicellular red alga and evolution of chlorophyll c to form the kingdom Chromista and protozoan infrakingdom Alveolata, which diverged from the ancestral chromalveolate chimaera. Cabozoa arose when the common ancestor of euglenoids and cercozoan chlorarachnean algae enslaved a tetraphyte green alga with chlorophyll a and b. I suggest that in cabozoa the endomembrane vesicles originally budded from the Golgi, whereas in chromalveolates they budded from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) independently of Golgi-targeted vesicles, presenting a potentially novel target for drugs against alveolate Sporozoa such as malaria parasites and Toxoplasma. These hypothetical ER-derived vesicles mediated fusion of the perialgal vacuole and rough ER (RER) in the ancestral chromist, placing the former red alga within the RER lumen. Subsequently, this chimaera diverged to form cryptomonads, which retained the red algal nucleus as a nucleomorph (NM) with approximately 464 protein-coding genes (30 encoding plastid proteins) and a red or blue phycobiliprotein antenna pigment, and the chromobiotes (heterokonts and haptophytes), which lost phycobilins and evolved the brown carotenoid fucoxanthin that colours brown seaweeds, diatoms and haptophytes. Chromobiotes transferred the 30 genes to the nucleus and lost the NM genome and nuclear-pore complexes, but retained its membrane as the periplastid reticulum (PPR), putatively the phospholipid factory of the periplastid space (former algal cytoplasm), as did the ancestral alveolate independently. The chlorarachnean NM has three minute chromosomes bearing approximately 300 genes riddled with pygmy introns. I propose that the periplastid membrane (PPM, the former algal plasma membrane) of chromalveolates, and possibly chlorarachneans, grows by fusion of vesicles emanating from the NM envelope or PPR. Dinoflagellates and euglenoids independently lost the PPM and PPR (after diverging from Sporozoa and chlorarachneans, respectively) and evolved triple chloroplast envelopes comprising the original plant double envelope and an extra outermost membrane, the EM, derived from the perialgal vacuole. In all metaalgae most chloroplast proteins are coded by nuclear genes and enter the chloroplast by using bipartite targeting sequences--an upstream signal sequence for entering the ER and a downstream chloroplast transit sequence. I present a new theory for the four-fold diversification of the chloroplast OM protein translocon following its insertion into the PPM to facilitate protein translocation across it (of both periplastid and plastid proteins). I discuss evidence from genome sequencing and other sources on the contrasting modes of protein targeting, cellular integration, and evolution of these two major lineages of eukaryote "cells within cells". They also provide powerful evidence for natural selection's effectiveness in eliminating most functionless DNA and therefore of a universally useful non-genic function for nuclear non-coding DNA, i.e. most DNA in the biosphere, and dramatic examples of genomic reduction. I briefly argue that chloroplast replacement in dinoflagellates, which happened at least twice, may have been evolutionarily easier than secondary symbiogenesis because parts of the chromalveolate protein-targeting machinery could have helped enslave the foreign plastids.
PMCID: PMC1693104  PMID: 12594921
2.  Transfer of genetic material between the chloroplast and nucleus: how is it related to stress in plants? 
Annals of Botany  2008;103(4):625-633.
The presence of chloroplast-related DNA sequences in the nuclear genome is generally regarded as a relic of the process by which genes have been transferred from the chloroplast to the nucleus. The remaining chloroplast encoded genes are not identical across the plant kingdom indicating an ongoing transfer of genes from the organelle to the nucleus.
This review focuses on the active processes by which the nuclear genome might be acquiring or removing DNA sequences from the chloroplast genome. Present knowledge of the contribution to the nuclear genome of DNA originating from the chloroplast will be reviewed. In particular, the possible effects of stressful environments on the transfer of genetic material between the chloroplast and nucleus will be considered. The significance of this research and suggestions for the future research directions to identify drivers, such as stress, of the nuclear incorporation of plastid sequences are discussed.
The transfer to the nuclear genome of most of the protein-encoding functions for chloroplast-located proteins facilitates the control of gene expression. The continual transfer of fragments, including complete functional genes, from the chloroplast to the nucleus has been observed. However, the mechanisms by which the loss of functions and physical DNA elimination from the chloroplast genome following the transfer of those functions to the nucleus remains obscure. The frequency of polymorphism across chloroplast-related DNA fragments within a species will indicate the rate at which these DNA fragments are incorporated and removed from the chromosomes.
PMCID: PMC2707348  PMID: 18801916
Stress; DNA transfer; organelles and nucleus; genome integration
3.  The Translational Apparatus of Plastids and Its Role in Plant Development 
Molecular Plant  2014;7(7):1105-1120.
Systematic reverse genetic approaches in the nuclear and chloroplast genomes have greatly increased our knowledge about the structure, function, and biogenesis of chloroplast ribosomes, and about the molecular mechanisms of plastid protein biosynthesis. They also provided new insights into the regulation of plant development by the activity of plastid gene expression. We review our current knowledge about the translational apparatus of plastids and the impact of plastid translation on plant anatomy and plant morphology.
Chloroplasts (plastids) possess a genome and their own machinery to express it. Translation in plastids occurs on bacterial-type 70S ribosomes utilizing a set of tRNAs that is entirely encoded in the plastid genome. In recent years, the components of the chloroplast translational apparatus have been intensely studied by proteomic approaches and by reverse genetics in the model systems tobacco (plastid-encoded components) and Arabidopsis (nucleus-encoded components). This work has provided important new insights into the structure, function, and biogenesis of chloroplast ribosomes, and also has shed fresh light on the molecular mechanisms of the translation process in plastids. In addition, mutants affected in plastid translation have yielded strong genetic evidence for chloroplast genes and gene products influencing plant development at various levels, presumably via retrograde signaling pathway(s). In this review, we describe recent progress with the functional analysis of components of the chloroplast translational machinery and discuss the currently available evidence that supports a significant impact of plastid translational activity on plant anatomy and morphology.
PMCID: PMC4086613  PMID: 24589494
plastid; translation; ribosome; ribosomal protein; evolution; plastid transformation; retrograde signaling; leaf development; palisade cell.
4.  Structure of the Chloroplast Ribosome: Novel Domains for Translation Regulation  
PLoS Biology  2007;5(8):e209.
Gene expression in chloroplasts is controlled primarily through the regulation of translation. This regulation allows coordinate expression between the plastid and nuclear genomes, and is responsive to environmental conditions. Despite common ancestry with bacterial translation, chloroplast translation is more complex and involves positive regulatory mRNA elements and a host of requisite protein translation factors that do not have counterparts in bacteria. Previous proteomic analyses of the chloroplast ribosome identified a significant number of chloroplast-unique ribosomal proteins that expand upon a basic bacterial 70S-like composition. In this study, cryo-electron microscopy and single-particle reconstruction were used to calculate the structure of the chloroplast ribosome to a resolution of 15.5 Å. Chloroplast-unique proteins are visualized as novel structural additions to a basic bacterial ribosome core. These structures are located at optimal positions on the chloroplast ribosome for interaction with mRNAs during translation initiation. Visualization of these chloroplast-unique structures on the ribosome, combined with mRNA cross-linking, allows us to propose a model for translation initiation in chloroplasts in which chloroplast-unique ribosomal proteins interact with plastid-specific translation factors and RNA elements to facilitate regulated translation of chloroplast mRNAs.
Author Summary
Translation of mRNA into protein is the main step for the regulation of gene expression in the chloroplast, the photosynthetic organelle of plant cells. Translation is conducted by the ribosome, a large macromolecular machine composed of RNA and protein. Studies have shown that the composition of the chloroplast ribosome is similar to that of bacterial ribosomes, but also that chloroplast ribosomes contain a number of unique proteins. We present the three-dimensional structure of the chloroplast ribosome, as calculated using cryo-electron microscopy and single-particle reconstruction. Chloroplast-unique structures are clearly visible on our ribosome map, and expand upon a basic bacterial ribosome-like core. The role of these chloroplast-unique ribosomal proteins in regulating translation of chloroplast mRNAs, including light-regulated translation, is suggested by the location of these structures on the ribosome. Biochemical data confirm a predicted function in chloroplast translation for some of the unique proteins. Our model for translation in the chloroplast incorporates decades of biochemical and genetic studies with the structure presented here, and should help guide future studies to understand the molecular mechanisms of translation regulation in the chloroplast.
Cryo-electron microscopy and single-particle reconstruction were used to calculate the structure of the chloroplast ribosome. Chloroplast-unique proteins are visualized as novel structural additions to a basic bacterial ribosome core.
PMCID: PMC1939882  PMID: 17683199
5.  Noncoding RNA Mediated Traffic of Foreign mRNA into Chloroplasts Reveals a Novel Signaling Mechanism in Plants 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12269.
Communication between chloroplasts and the nucleus is one of the milestones of the evolution of plants on earth. Proteins encoded by ancestral chloroplast-endogenous genes were transferred to the nucleus during the endosymbiotic evolution and originated this communication, which is mainly dependent on specific transit-peptides. However, the identification of nuclear-encoded proteins targeted to the chloroplast lacking these canonical signals suggests the existence of an alternative cellular pathway tuning this metabolic crosstalk. Non-coding RNAS (NcRNAs) are increasingly recognized as regulators of gene expression as they play roles previously believed to correspond to proteins. Avsunviroidae family viroids are the only noncoding functional RNAs that have been reported to traffic inside the chloroplasts. Elucidating mechanisms used by these pathogens to enter this organelle will unearth novel transport pathways in plant cells. Here we show that a viroid-derived NcRNA acting as a 5′UTR-end mediates the functional import of Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) mRNA into chloroplast. This claim is supported by the observation at confocal microscopy of a selective accumulation of GFP in the chloroplast of the leaves expressing the chimeric vd-5′UTR/GFP and by the detection of the GFP mRNA in chloroplasts isolated from cells expressing this construct. These results support the existence of an alternative signaling mechanism in plants between the host cell and chloroplasts, where an ncRNA functions as a key regulatory molecule to control the accumulation of nuclear-encoded proteins in this organelle. In addition, our findings provide a conceptual framework to develop new biotechnological tools in systems using plant chloroplast as bioreactors. Finally, viroids of the family Avsunviroidae have probably evolved to subvert this signaling mechanism to regulate their differential traffic into the chloroplast of infected cells.
PMCID: PMC2924387  PMID: 20808865
6.  Mediated Plastid RNA Editing in Plant Immunity 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(10):e1003713.
Plant regulatory circuits coordinating nuclear and plastid gene expression have evolved in response to external stimuli. RNA editing is one of such control mechanisms. We determined the Arabidopsis nuclear-encoded homeodomain-containing protein OCP3 is incorporated into the chloroplast, and contributes to control over the extent of ndhB transcript editing. ndhB encodes the B subunit of the chloroplast NADH dehydrogenase-like complex (NDH) involved in cyclic electron flow (CEF) around photosystem I. In ocp3 mutant strains, ndhB editing efficiency decays, CEF is impaired and disease resistance to fungal pathogens substantially enhanced, a process recapitulated in plants defective in editing plastid RNAs encoding NDH complex subunits due to mutations in previously described nuclear-encoded pentatricopeptide-related proteins (i.e. CRR21, CRR2). Furthermore, we observed that following a pathogenic challenge, wild type plants respond with editing inhibition of ndhB transcript. In parallel, rapid destabilization of the plastidial NDH complex is also observed in the plant following perception of a pathogenic cue. Therefore, NDH complex activity and plant immunity appear as interlinked processes.
Author Summary
Plastids originated from cyanobacteria that were incorporated into the eukaryotic cell through an endosymbiotic relationship. During the gradual evolution from endosymbiont to organelle, most genes of the cyanobacterial genome were transferred to the nuclear genome. Therefore, plastid biogenesis and function relies on nuclear gene expression and the import of these gene products into plastids, with the molecular dialogue between these two plant cell compartments therefore needing a precise coordination. Nuclei-to-chloroplast communication, and vice versa, are thus regulated through anterograde and retrograde signaling pathways, respectively. Post-transcriptional RNA editing of plastid RNAs by nuclear encoded regulatory proteins, such as pentatricopetide repeat (PPRs) proteins, represents one of such mechanisms of control. Through the characterization of the nuclear-encoded OCP3 protein, previously found to function as a disease resistance regulator in Arabidopsis, we have discovered a pathogen-sensitive editing-mediated control of the plastidial NDH complex involved in cyclic electron flow (CEF) around photosystem I. This led us to find that different PPRs controlling editing extent of transcripts for plastidial NDH complex are modulated by pathogenic cues. Our results thus represent the first series of evidence indicating engagement of chloroplast RNA editing and chloroplast NDH activity in plant immunity.
PMCID: PMC3814343  PMID: 24204264
7.  Retrograde signaling from functionally heterogeneous plastids 
Structural and functional components of chloroplast are encoded by genes localized both to nuclear and plastid genomes of plant cell. Development from etioplasts to chloroplasts is triggered by light receptors that activate the expression of photosynthesis-associated nuclear genes (PhaNGs). In addition to photoreceptor-mediated pathways, retrograde signals from the chloroplast to the nucleus activate or repress the expression of nuclear genes involved in acclimatory or stress responses in plant leaves. A plant mesophyll cell contains up to 100 chloroplasts that function autonomously, raising intriguing questions about homogeneity and coordination of retrograde signals transmitted from chloroplast to nucleus. We have previously demonstrated that the knockout of the chloroplast regulatory protein, chloroplast NADPH-dependent thioredoxin reductase (NTRC) leads to a heterogeneous population of chloroplasts with a range of different functional states. The heterogeneous chloroplast population activates both redox-dependent and undifferentiated plastid-generated retrograde signaling pathways in the mutant leaves. Transcriptome data from the ntrc knockout lines suggest that the induction of the redox-dependent signaling pathway depends on light conditions and leads to activation of stress-responsive gene expression. Analysis of mutants in different developmental stages allows to dissect signals from normal and anomalous chloroplasts. Thus, the signals derived from anomalous chloroplasts repress expression of PhaNGs as well as genes associated with light receptor signaling and differentiation of stomata, implying interaction between retrograde pathways and plant development. Analysis of the nuclear gene expression in mutants of retrograde signaling pathways in ntrc background would reveal the components that mediate signals generated from heterogeneous plastids to nucleus.
PMCID: PMC3526119  PMID: 23267363
light signaling; redox signals; nuclear gene expression; stress; differentiation; NTRC
8.  Comparison of the chloroplast peroxidase system in the chlorophyte Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, the bryophyte Physcomitrella patens, the lycophyte Selaginella moellendorffii and the seed plant Arabidopsis thaliana 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:133.
Oxygenic photosynthesis is accompanied by the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which damage proteins, lipids, DNA and finally limit plant yield. The enzymes of the chloroplast antioxidant system are exclusively nuclear encoded. During evolution, plastid and mitochondrial genes were post-endosymbiotically transferred to the nucleus, adapted for eukaryotic gene expression and post-translational protein targeting and supplemented with genes of eukaryotic origin.
Here, the genomes of the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, the moss Physcomitrella patens, the lycophyte Selaginella moellendorffii and the seed plant Arabidopsis thaliana were screened for ORFs encoding chloroplast peroxidases. The identified genes were compared for their amino acid sequence similarities and gene structures. Stromal and thylakoid-bound ascorbate peroxidases (APx) share common splice sites demonstrating that they evolved from a common ancestral gene. In contrast to most cormophytes, our results predict that chloroplast APx activity is restricted to the stroma in Chlamydomonas and to thylakoids in Physcomitrella. The moss gene is of retrotransposonal origin.
The exon-intron-structures of 2CP genes differ between chlorophytes and streptophytes indicating an independent evolution. According to amino acid sequence characteristics only the A-isoform of Chlamydomonas 2CP may be functionally equivalent to streptophyte 2CP, while the weakly expressed B- and C-isoforms show chlorophyte specific surfaces and amino acid sequence characteristics. The amino acid sequences of chloroplast PrxII are widely conserved between the investigated species. In the analyzed streptophytes, the genes are unspliced, but accumulated four introns in Chlamydomonas. A conserved splice site indicates also a common origin of chlorobiont PrxQ.
The similarity of splice sites also demonstrates that streptophyte glutathione peroxidases (GPx) are of common origin. Besides a less related cysteine-type GPx, Chlamydomonas encodes two selenocysteine-type GPx. The latter were lost prior or during streptophyte evolution.
Throughout plant evolution, there was a strong selective pressure on maintaining the activity of all three investigated types of peroxidases in chloroplasts. APx evolved from a gene, which dates back to times before differentiation of chlorobionts into chlorophytes and streptophytes, while Prx and presumably also GPx gene patterns may have evolved independently in the streptophyte and chlorophyte branches.
PMCID: PMC3095285  PMID: 20584316
9.  Plastid Division: Evolution, Mechanism and Complexity 
Annals of Botany  2006;99(4):565-579.
The continuity of chloroplasts is maintained by division of pre-existing chloroplasts. Chloroplasts originated as bacterial endosymbionts; however, the majority of bacterial division factors are absent from chloroplasts and the eukaryotic host has added several new components. For example, the ftsZ gene has been duplicated and modified, and the Min system has retained MinE and MinD but lost MinC, acquiring at least one new component ARC3. Further, the mechanism has evolved to include two members of the dynamin protein family, ARC5 and FZL, and plastid-dividing (PD) rings were most probably added by the eukaryotic host.
Deciphering how the division of plastids is coordinated and controlled by nuclear-encoded factors is key to our understanding of this important biological process. Through a number of molecular-genetic and biochemical approaches, it is evident that FtsZ initiates plastid division where the coordinated action of MinD and MinE ensures correct FtsZ (Z)-ring placement. Although the classical FtsZ antagonist MinC does not exist in plants, ARC3 may fulfil this role. Together with other prokaryotic-derived proteins such as ARC6 and GC1 and key eukaryotic-derived proteins such as ARC5 and FZL, these proteins make up a sophisticated division machinery. The regulation of plastid division in a cellular context is largely unknown; however, recent microarray data shed light on this. Here the current understanding of the mechanism of chloroplast division in higher plants is reviewed with an emphasis on how recent findings are beginning to shape our understanding of the function and evolution of the components.
Extrapolation from the mechanism of bacterial cell division provides valuable clues as to how the chloroplast division process is achieved in plant cells. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the highly regulated mechanism of plastid division within the host cell has led to the evolution of features unique to the plastid division process.
PMCID: PMC2802928  PMID: 17138581
Arabidopsis; ARC; E. coli cell division; Min system; plastid division; FtsZ
10.  Chloroplasts of Salt-Grown Arabidopsis Seedlings Are Impaired in Structure, Genome Copy Number and Transcript Levels 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82548.
The chloroplast is the most prominent and metabolically active plastid in photosynthetic plants. Chloroplasts differentiate from proplastids in the plant meristem. Plant plastids contain multiple copies of a small circular genome. The numbers of chloroplasts per mesophyll cell and of plastid genome copies are affected by developmental stage and environmental signals. We compared chloroplast structure, gene expression and genome copy number in Arabidopsis seedlings germinated and grown under optimal conditions to those in seedlings germinated and grown in the presence of NaCl. Chloroplasts of the NaCl-grown seedlings were impaired, with less developed thylakoid and granum membranes than control seedlings. In addition, chloroplasts of salt-grown Arabidopsis seedlings accumulated more starch grains than those in the respective control plants. Steady-state transcript levels of chloroplast-encoded genes and of nuclear genes encoding chloroplast proteins were reduced in salt-grown seedlings. This reduction did not result from a global decrease in gene expression, since the expression of other nuclear genes was induced or not affected. Average cellular chloroplast genome copy number was reduced in salt-grown seedlings, suggesting that the reduction in steady-state transcript levels of chloroplast-encoded genes might result from a decrease in template DNA.
PMCID: PMC3855474  PMID: 24340039
11.  The evolution of the regulatory mechanism of chloroplast division 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2010;5(2):164-167.
Chloroplasts arose from a cyanobacterial endosymbiont and multiply by division, reminiscent of their free-living ancestor. However, chloroplasts can not divide by themselves, and the division is performed and controlled by proteins that are encoded by the host nucleus. The continuity of chloroplasts was originally established by synchronization of endosymbiotic cell division with host cell division, as seen in existent algae. In contrast, land plant cells contain multiple chloroplasts, the division of which is not synchronized, even in the same cell. Land plants have evolved cell and chloroplast differentiation systems in which the size and number of chloroplasts (or other types of plastids) change along with their respective cellular function by changes in the division rate. We recently reported that PLASTID DIVISION (PDV) proteins, land-plant specific components of the chloroplast division apparatus, determined the rate of chloroplast division. The level of PDV protein is regulated by the cell differentiation program based on cytokinin, and the increase or decrease of the PDV level gives rise to an increase or decrease in the chloroplast division rate. Thus, the integration of PDV proteins into the chloroplast division machinery enabled land plant cells to change chloroplast size and number in accord with the fate of cell differentiation.
PMCID: PMC2884125  PMID: 20023413
chloroplast division; cell cycle; cell differentiation; cytokinin; endosymbiosis; evolution
12.  Downregulation of Chloroplast RPS1 Negatively Modulates Nuclear Heat-Responsive Expression of HsfA2 and Its Target Genes in Arabidopsis 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(5):e1002669.
Heat stress commonly leads to inhibition of photosynthesis in higher plants. The transcriptional induction of heat stress-responsive genes represents the first line of inducible defense against imbalances in cellular homeostasis. Although heat stress transcription factor HsfA2 and its downstream target genes are well studied, the regulatory mechanisms by which HsfA2 is activated in response to heat stress remain elusive. Here, we show that chloroplast ribosomal protein S1 (RPS1) is a heat-responsive protein and functions in protein biosynthesis in chloroplast. Knockdown of RPS1 expression in the rps1 mutant nearly eliminates the heat stress-activated expression of HsfA2 and its target genes, leading to a considerable loss of heat tolerance. We further confirm the relationship existed between the downregulation of RPS1 expression and the loss of heat tolerance by generating RNA interference-transgenic lines of RPS1. Consistent with the notion that the inhibited activation of HsfA2 in response to heat stress in the rps1 mutant causes heat-susceptibility, we further demonstrate that overexpression of HsfA2 with a viral promoter leads to constitutive expressions of its target genes in the rps1 mutant, which is sufficient to reestablish lost heat tolerance and recovers heat-susceptible thylakoid stability to wild-type levels. Our findings reveal a heat-responsive retrograde pathway in which chloroplast translation capacity is a critical factor in heat-responsive activation of HsfA2 and its target genes required for cellular homeostasis under heat stress. Thus, RPS1 is an essential yet previously unknown determinant involved in retrograde activation of heat stress responses in higher plants.
Author Summary
As a consequence of global warming, increasing temperature is a serious threat to crop production worldwide and may influence the objectives of breeding programs. As a universal cellular response to a shift up in temperature, the heat stress response represents the first line of inducible defense against imbalances in cellular homeostasis in the prokaryotic and eukaryotic kingdoms. Given that components of the photosynthetic apparatus housed in the chloroplast are the primary susceptible targets of thermal damage in plants, the chloroplasts were proposed as sensors to a shift up in temperature. However, the mechanism by which chloroplasts regulate the expression of nuclear heat stress–responsive gene expression according to the functional state of chloroplasts under heat stress remains unknown. In this study, we have identified chloroplast ribosomal protein S1 (RPS1) as a heat-responsive protein through proteomic screening of heat-responsive proteins. We have established a previously unrecognized molecular connection between the downregulation of RPS1 expression in chloroplast and the activation of HsfA2-dependent heat-responsive genes in nucleus, which is required for heat tolerance in higher plants. Our data provide new insights into the mechanisms whereby plant cells modulate nuclear gene expression to keep accordance with the current status of chloroplasts in response to heat stress.
PMCID: PMC3342936  PMID: 22570631
13.  Transcriptional Control of Photosynthesis Genes: The Evolutionarily Conserved Regulatory Mechanism in Plastid Genome Function 
Chloroplast sensor kinase (CSK) is a bacterial-type sensor histidine kinase found in chloroplasts—photosynthetic plastids—in eukaryotic plants and algae. Using a yeast two-hybrid screen, we demonstrate recognition and interactions between: CSK, plastid transcription kinase (PTK), and a bacterial-type RNA polymerase sigma factor-1 (SIG-1). CSK interacts with itself, with SIG-1, and with PTK. PTK also interacts directly with SIG-1. PTK has previously been shown to catalyze phosphorylation of plastid-encoded RNA polymerase (PEP), suppressing plastid transcription nonspecifically. Phospho-PTK is inactive as a PEP kinase. Here, we propose that phospho-CSK acts as a PTK kinase, releasing PTK repression of chloroplast transcription, while CSK also acts as a SIG-1 kinase, blocking transcription specifically at the gene promoter of chloroplast photosystem I. Oxidation of the photosynthetic electron carrier plastoquinone triggers phosphorylation of CSK, inducing chloroplast photosystem II while suppressing photosystem I. CSK places photosystem gene transcription under the control of photosynthetic electron transport. This redox signaling pathway has its origin in cyanobacteria, photosynthetic prokaryotes from which chloroplasts evolved. The persistence of this mechanism in cytoplasmic organelles of photosynthetic eukaryotes is in precise agreement with the CoRR hypothesis for the function of organellar genomes: the plastid genome and its primary gene products are Co-located for Redox Regulation. Genes are retained in plastids primarily in order for their expression to be subject to this rapid and robust redox regulatory transcriptional control mechanism, whereas plastid genes also encode genetic system components, such as some ribosomal proteins and RNAs, that exist in order to support this primary, redox regulatory control of photosynthesis genes. Plastid genome function permits adaptation of the photosynthetic apparatus to changing environmental conditions of light quantity and quality.
PMCID: PMC3012001  PMID: 21071627
chloroplast sensor kinase; plastid transcription kinase; sigma factor; cytoplasmic inheritance; protein phosphorylation; Co-location for Redox Regulation (CoRR)
14.  Extensive loss of translational genes in the structurally dynamic mitochondrial genome of the angiosperm Silene latifolia 
Mitochondrial gene loss and functional transfer to the nucleus is an ongoing process in many lineages of plants, resulting in substantial variation across species in mitochondrial gene content. The Caryophyllaceae represents one lineage that has experienced a particularly high rate of mitochondrial gene loss relative to other angiosperms.
In this study, we report the first complete mitochondrial genome sequence from a member of this family, Silene latifolia. The genome can be mapped as a 253,413 bp circle, but its structure is complicated by a large repeated region that is present in 6 copies. Active recombination among these copies produces a suite of alternative genome configurations that appear to be at or near "recombinational equilibrium". The genome contains the fewest genes of any angiosperm mitochondrial genome sequenced to date, with intact copies of only 25 of the 41 protein genes inferred to be present in the common ancestor of angiosperms. As observed more broadly in angiosperms, ribosomal proteins have been especially prone to gene loss in the S. latifolia lineage. The genome has also experienced a major reduction in tRNA gene content, including loss of functional tRNAs of both native and chloroplast origin. Even assuming expanded wobble-pairing rules, the mitochondrial genome can support translation of only 17 of the 61 sense codons, which code for only 9 of the 20 amino acids. In addition, genes encoding 18S and, especially, 5S rRNA exhibit exceptional sequence divergence relative to other plants. Divergence in one region of 18S rRNA appears to be the result of a gene conversion event, in which recombination with a homologous gene of chloroplast origin led to the complete replacement of a helix in this ribosomal RNA.
These findings suggest a markedly expanded role for nuclear gene products in the translation of mitochondrial genes in S. latifolia and raise the possibility of altered selective constraints operating on the mitochondrial translational apparatus in this lineage.
PMCID: PMC2942850  PMID: 20831793
15.  Synchronization of cytoplasmic and transferred mitochondrial ribosomal protein gene expression in land plants is linked to Telo-box motif enrichment 
Chloroplasts and mitochondria evolved from the endosymbionts of once free-living eubacteria, and they transferred most of their genes to the host nuclear genome during evolution. The mechanisms used by plants to coordinate the expression of such transferred genes, as well as other genes in the host nuclear genome, are still poorly understood.
In this paper, we use nuclear-encoded chloroplast (cpRPGs), as well as mitochondrial (mtRPGs) and cytoplasmic (euRPGs) ribosomal protein genes to study the coordination of gene expression between organelles and the host. Results show that the mtRPGs, but not the cpRPGs, exhibit strongly synchronized expression with euRPGs in all investigated land plants and that this phenomenon is linked to the presence of a telo-box DNA motif in the promoter regions of mtRPGs and euRPGs. This motif is also enriched in the promoter regions of genes involved in DNA replication. Sequence analysis further indicates that mtRPGs, in contrast to cpRPGs, acquired telo-box from the host nuclear genome.
Based on our results, we propose a model of plant nuclear genome evolution where coordination of activities in mitochondria and chloroplast and other cellular functions, including cell cycle, might have served as a strong selection pressure for the differential acquisition of telo-box between mtRPGs and cpRPGs. This research also highlights the significance of physiological needs in shaping transcriptional regulatory evolution.
PMCID: PMC3212954  PMID: 21668973
16.  Plastid chaperonin proteins Cpn60α and Cpn60β are required for plastid division in Arabidopsis thaliana 
BMC Plant Biology  2009;9:38.
Plastids arose from a free-living cyanobacterial endosymbiont and multiply by binary division as do cyanobacteria. Plastid division involves nucleus-encoded homologs of cyanobacterial division proteins such as FtsZ, MinD, MinE, and ARC6. However, homologs of many other cyanobacterial division genes are missing in plant genomes and proteins of host eukaryotic origin, such as a dynamin-related protein, PDV1 and PDV2 are involved in the division process. Recent identification of plastid division proteins has started to elucidate the similarities and differences between plastid division and cyanobacterial cell division. To further identify new proteins that are required for plastid division, we characterized previously and newly isolated plastid division mutants of Arabidopsis thaliana.
Leaf cells of two mutants, br04 and arc2, contain fewer, larger chloroplasts than those of wild type. We found that ARC2 and BR04 are identical to nuclear genes encoding the plastid chaperonin 60α (ptCpn60α) and chaperonin 60β (ptCpn60β) proteins, respectively. In both mutants, plastid division FtsZ ring formation was partially perturbed though the level of FtsZ2-1 protein in plastids of ptcpn60β mutants was similar to that in wild type. Phylogenetic analyses showed that both ptCpn60 proteins are derived from ancestral cyanobacterial proteins. The A. thaliana genome encodes two members of ptCpn60α family and four members of ptCpn60β family respectively. We found that a null mutation in ptCpn60α abolished greening of plastids and resulted in an albino phenotype while a weaker mutation impairs plastid division and reduced chlorophyll levels. The functions of at least two ptCpn60β proteins are redundant and the appearance of chloroplast division defects is dependent on the number of mutant alleles.
Our results suggest that both ptCpn60α and ptCpn60β are required for the formation of a normal plastid division apparatus, as the prokaryotic counterparts are required for assembly of the cell division apparatus. Since moderate reduction of ptCpn60 levels impaired normal FtsZ ring formation but not import of FtsZ into plastids, it is suggested that the proper levels of ptCpn60 are required for folding of stromal plastid division proteins and/or regulation of FtsZ polymer dynamics.
PMCID: PMC2670834  PMID: 19344532
17.  Evolution of plant phage-type RNA polymerases: the genome of the basal angiosperm Nuphar advena encodes two mitochondrial and one plastid phage-type RNA polymerases 
In mono- and eudicotyledonous plants, a small nuclear gene family (RpoT, RNA polymerase of the T3/T7 type) encodes mitochondrial as well as chloroplast RNA polymerases homologous to the T-odd bacteriophage enzymes. RpoT genes from angiosperms are well characterized, whereas data from deeper branching plant species are limited to the moss Physcomitrella and the spikemoss Selaginella. To further elucidate the molecular evolution of the RpoT polymerases in the plant kingdom and to get more insight into the potential importance of having more than one phage-type RNA polymerase (RNAP) available, we searched for the respective genes in the basal angiosperm Nuphar advena.
By screening a set of BAC library filters, three RpoT genes were identified. Both genomic gene sequences and full-length cDNAs were determined. The NaRpoT mRNAs specify putative polypeptides of 996, 990 and 985 amino acids, respectively. All three genes comprise 19 exons and 18 introns, conserved in their positions with those known from RpoT genes of other land plants. The encoded proteins show a high degree of conservation at the amino acid sequence level, including all functional crucial regions and residues known from the phage T7 RNAP. The N-terminal transit peptides of two of the encoded polymerases, NaRpoTm1 and NaRpoTm2, conferred targeting of green fluorescent protein (GFP) exclusively to mitochondria, whereas the third polymerase, NaRpoTp, was targeted to chloroplasts. Remarkably, translation of NaRpoTp mRNA has to be initiated at a CUG codon to generate a functional plastid transit peptide. Thus, besides AGAMOUS in Arabidopsis and the Nicotiana RpoTp gene, N. advena RpoTp provides another example for a plant mRNA that is exclusively translated from a non-AUG codon. In contrast to the RpoT of the lycophyte Selaginella and those of the moss Physcomitrella, which are according to phylogenetic analyses in sister positions to all other phage-type polymerases of angiosperms, the Nuphar RpoTs clustered with the well separated clades of mitochondrial (NaRpoTm1 and NaRpoTm2) and plastid (NaRpoTp) polymerases.
Nuphar advena encodes two mitochondrial and one plastid phage-type RNAP. Identification of a plastid-localized phage-type RNAP in this basal angiosperm, orthologous to all other RpoTp enzymes of flowering plants, suggests that the duplication event giving rise to a nuclear gene-encoded plastid RNA polymerase, not present in lycopods, took place after the split of lycopods from all other tracheophytes. A dual-targeted mitochondrial and plastididal RNA polymerase (RpoTmp), as present in eudicots but not monocots, was not detected in Nuphar suggesting that its occurrence is an evolutionary novelty of eudicotyledonous plants like Arabidopsis.
PMCID: PMC3022604  PMID: 21134269
18.  Rampant Gene Loss in the Underground Orchid Rhizanthella gardneri Highlights Evolutionary Constraints on Plastid Genomes 
Molecular Biology and Evolution  2011;28(7):2077-2086.
Since the endosymbiotic origin of chloroplasts from cyanobacteria 2 billion years ago, the evolution of plastids has been characterized by massive loss of genes. Most plants and algae depend on photosynthesis for energy and have retained ∼110 genes in their chloroplast genome that encode components of the gene expression machinery and subunits of the photosystems. However, nonphotosynthetic parasitic plants have retained a reduced plastid genome, showing that plastids have other essential functions besides photosynthesis. We sequenced the complete plastid genome of the underground orchid, Rhizanthella gardneri. This remarkable parasitic subterranean orchid possesses the smallest organelle genome yet described in land plants. With only 20 proteins, 4 rRNAs, and 9 tRNAs encoded in 59,190 bp, it is the least gene-rich plastid genome known to date apart from the fragmented plastid genome of some dinoflagellates. Despite numerous differences, striking similarities with plastid genomes from unrelated parasitic plants identify a minimal set of protein-encoding and tRNA genes required to reside in plant plastids. This prime example of convergent evolution implies shared selective constraints on gene loss or transfer.
PMCID: PMC3112369  PMID: 21289370
Rhizanthella gardneri; mycoheterotroph; chloroplast; tRNA import; gene loss
19.  An mTERF domain protein functions in group II intron splicing in maize chloroplasts 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(8):5033-5042.
The mitochondrial transcription termination factor (mTERF) proteins are nucleic acid binding proteins characterized by degenerate helical repeats of ∼30 amino acids. Metazoan genomes encode a small family of mTERF proteins whose members influence mitochondrial gene expression and DNA replication. The mTERF family in higher plants consists of roughly 30 members, which localize to mitochondria or chloroplasts. Effects of several mTERF proteins on plant development and physiology have been described, but molecular functions of mTERF proteins in plants are unknown. We show that a maize mTERF protein, Zm-mTERF4, promotes the splicing of group II introns in chloroplasts. Zm-mTERF4 coimmunoprecipitates with many chloroplast introns and the splicing of some of these introns is disrupted even in hypomorphic Zm-mterf4 mutants. Furthermore, Zm-mTERF4 is found in high molecular weight complexes that include known chloroplast splicing factors. The splicing of two transfer RNAs (trnI-GAU and trnA-UGC) and one ribosomal protein messenger RNA (rpl2) is particularly sensitive to the loss of Zm-mTERF4, accounting for the loss of plastid ribosomes in Zm-mTERF4 mutants. These findings extend the known functional repertoire of the mTERF family to include group II intron splicing and suggest that a conserved role in chloroplast RNA splicing underlies the physiological defects described for mutations in BSM/Rugosa2, the Zm-mTERF4 ortholog in Arabidopsis.
PMCID: PMC4005652  PMID: 24500208
20.  Exploring photosynthesis evolution by comparative analysis of metabolic networks between chloroplasts and photosynthetic bacteria 
BMC Genomics  2006;7:100.
Chloroplasts descended from cyanobacteria and have a drastically reduced genome following an endosymbiotic event. Many genes of the ancestral cyanobacterial genome have been transferred to the plant nuclear genome by horizontal gene transfer. However, a selective set of metabolism pathways is maintained in chloroplasts using both chloroplast genome encoded and nuclear genome encoded enzymes. As an organelle specialized for carrying out photosynthesis, does the chloroplast metabolic network have properties adapted for higher efficiency of photosynthesis? We compared metabolic network properties of chloroplasts and prokaryotic photosynthetic organisms, mostly cyanobacteria, based on metabolic maps derived from genome data to identify features of chloroplast network properties that are different from cyanobacteria and to analyze possible functional significance of those features.
The properties of the entire metabolic network and the sub-network that consists of reactions directly connected to the Calvin Cycle have been analyzed using hypergraph representation. Results showed that the whole metabolic networks in chloroplast and cyanobacteria both possess small-world network properties. Although the number of compounds and reactions in chloroplasts is less than that in cyanobacteria, the chloroplast's metabolic network has longer average path length, a larger diameter, and is Calvin Cycle -centered, indicating an overall less-dense network structure with specific and local high density areas in chloroplasts. Moreover, chloroplast metabolic network exhibits a better modular organization than cyanobacterial ones. Enzymes involved in the same metabolic processes tend to cluster into the same module in chloroplasts.
In summary, the differences in metabolic network properties may reflect the evolutionary changes during endosymbiosis that led to the improvement of the photosynthesis efficiency in higher plants. Our findings are consistent with the notion that since the light energy absorption, transfer and conversion is highly efficient even in photosynthetic bacteria, the further improvements in photosynthetic efficiency in higher plants may rely on changes in metabolic network properties.
PMCID: PMC1524952  PMID: 16646993
21.  The Mitochondrial Genome of Soybean Reveals Complex Genome Structures and Gene Evolution at Intercellular and Phylogenetic Levels 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56502.
Determining mitochondrial genomes is important for elucidating vital activities of seed plants. Mitochondrial genomes are specific to each plant species because of their variable size, complex structures and patterns of gene losses and gains during evolution. This complexity has made research on the soybean mitochondrial genome difficult compared with its nuclear and chloroplast genomes. The present study helps to solve a 30-year mystery regarding the most complex mitochondrial genome structure, showing that pairwise rearrangements among the many large repeats may produce an enriched molecular pool of 760 circles in seed plants. The soybean mitochondrial genome harbors 58 genes of known function in addition to 52 predicted open reading frames of unknown function. The genome contains sequences of multiple identifiable origins, including 6.8 kb and 7.1 kb DNA fragments that have been transferred from the nuclear and chloroplast genomes, respectively, and some horizontal DNA transfers. The soybean mitochondrial genome has lost 16 genes, including nine protein-coding genes and seven tRNA genes; however, it has acquired five chloroplast-derived genes during evolution. Four tRNA genes, common among the three genomes, are derived from the chloroplast. Sizeable DNA transfers to the nucleus, with pericentromeric regions as hotspots, are observed, including DNA transfers of 125.0 kb and 151.6 kb identified unambiguously from the soybean mitochondrial and chloroplast genomes, respectively. The soybean nuclear genome has acquired five genes from its mitochondrial genome. These results provide biological insights into the mitochondrial genome of seed plants, and are especially helpful for deciphering vital activities in soybean.
PMCID: PMC3576410  PMID: 23431381
22.  Evolution of Chloroplast Transcript Processing in Plasmodium and Its Chromerid Algal Relatives 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(1):e1004008.
It is well understood that apicomplexan parasites, such as the malaria pathogen Plasmodium, are descended from free-living algae, and maintain a vestigial chloroplast that has secondarily lost all genes of photosynthetic function. Recently, two fully photosynthetic relatives of parasitic apicomplexans have been identified, the ‘chromerid’ algae Chromera velia and Vitrella brassicaformis, which retain photosynthesis genes within their chloroplasts. Elucidating the processes governing gene expression in chromerid chloroplasts might provide valuable insights into the origins of parasitism in the apicomplexans. We have characterised chloroplast transcript processing pathways in C. velia, V. brassicaformis and P. falciparum with a focus on the addition of an unusual, 3′ poly(U) tail. We demonstrate that poly(U) tails in chromerids are preferentially added to transcripts that encode proteins that are directly involved in photosynthetic electron transfer, over transcripts for proteins that are not involved in photosynthesis. To our knowledge, this represents the first chloroplast transcript processing pathway to be associated with a particular functional category of genes. In contrast, Plasmodium chloroplast transcripts are not polyuridylylated. We additionally present evidence that poly(U) tail addition in chromerids is involved in the alternative processing of polycistronic precursors covering multiple photosynthesis genes, and appears to be associated with high levels of transcript abundance. We propose that changes to the chloroplast transcript processing machinery were an important step in the loss of photosynthesis in ancestors of parasitic apicomplexans.
Author Summary
Chloroplasts contain their own genomes, containing two broad functional types of gene: genes encoding proteins directly involved in photosynthesis, and genes with a non-photosynthesis function, such as cofactor biosynthesis, assembly of protein complexes, or expression of the chloroplast genome. Thus far, to our knowledge, no chloroplast gene expression pathways in any lineage have been found to target one functional category of gene specifically. Here, we show that a chloroplast RNA processing pathway – the addition of a 3′ poly(U) tail – is specifically associated with photosynthesis genes in two species of algae, the ‘chromerids’ Chromera and Vitrella. The addition of the poly(U) tail enables the precise processing of mature photosynthesis gene transcripts from precursor RNA, and is likely to be essential for expression of the chromerid photosynthesis machinery. The chromerid algae are the closest photosynthetic relatives of a parasitic group of eukaryotes, the apicomplexans, which include the malaria pathogen Plasmodium. Apicomplexans are descended from algae, and retain a reduced chloroplast, which contains genes only of non-photosynthesis function. We have confirmed that 3′ poly(U) tails are not added to Plasmodium chloroplast transcripts. The expression pathways associated with photosynthesis genes have therefore been lost in the evolution of the apicomplexan chloroplast, and this loss could potentially have driven the transition from photosynthesis to parasitism.
PMCID: PMC3894158  PMID: 24453981
23.  How to build functional thylakoid membranes: from plastid transcription to protein complex assembly 
Planta  2012;237(2):413-428.
Chloroplasts are the endosymbiotic descendants of cyanobacterium-like prokaryotes. Present genomes of plant and green algae chloroplasts (plastomes) contain ~100 genes mainly encoding for their transcription-/translation-machinery, subunits of the thylakoid membrane complexes (photosystems II and I, cytochrome b6f, ATP synthase), and the large subunit of ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase. Nevertheless, proteomic studies have identified several thousand proteins in chloroplasts indicating that the majority of the plastid proteome is not encoded by the plastome. Indeed, plastid and host cell genomes have been massively rearranged in the course of their co-evolution, mainly through gene loss, horizontal gene transfer from the cyanobacterium/chloroplast to the nucleus of the host cell, and the emergence of new nuclear genes. Besides structural components of thylakoid membrane complexes and other (enzymatic) complexes, the nucleus provides essential factors that are involved in a variety of processes inside the chloroplast, like gene expression (transcription, RNA-maturation and translation), complex assembly, and protein import. Here, we provide an overview on regulatory factors that have been described and characterized in the past years, putting emphasis on mechanisms regulating the expression and assembly of the photosynthetic thylakoid membrane complexes.
PMCID: PMC3555230  PMID: 22976450
Chloroplast; Complex assembly; Endosymbiosis; Gene expression; Photosynthesis; Thylakoid membrane
24.  Why Chloroplasts and Mitochondria Contain Genomes 
Chloroplasts and mitochondria originated as bacterial symbionts. The larger, host cells acquired genetic information from their prokaryotic guests by lateral gene transfer. The prokaryotically-derived genes of the eukaryotic cell nucleus now function to encode the great majority of chloroplast and mitochondrial proteins, as well as many proteins of the nucleus and cytosol. Genes are copied and moved between cellular compartments with relative ease, and there is no established obstacle to successful import of any protein precursor from the cytosol. Yet chloroplasts and mitochondria have not abdicated all genes and gene expression to the nucleus and to cytosolic translation. What, then, do chloroplast- and mitochondrially-encoded proteins have in common that confers a selective advantage on the cytoplasmic location of their genes? The proposal advanced here is that co-location of chloroplast and mitochondrial genes with their gene products is required for rapid and direct regulatory coupling. Redox control of gene expression is suggested as the common feature of those chloroplast and mitochondrial proteins that are encoded in situ. Recent evidence is consistent with this hypothesis, and its underlying assumptions and predictions are described.
PMCID: PMC2447392  PMID: 18629105
25.  Phytochrome-dependent coordinate control of distinct aspects of nuclear and plastid gene expression during anterograde signaling and photomorphogenesis 
Light perception by photoreceptors impacts plastid transcription, development, and differentiation. This photoreceptor-dependent activity suggests a mechanism for photoregulation of gene expression in the nucleus and plastid that serves to coordinate expression of critical genes of these two organelles. This coordinate expression is required for proper stoichiometric accumulation of components needed for assembly of plastids, photosynthetic light-harvesting complexes and components such as phytochromes. Chloroplast-targeted sigma factors, which function together with the plastid-encoded RNA polymerase to regulate expression of plastid-encoded genes, and nuclear-encoded plastid development factors, such as GLK1 and GLK2, are targets of phytochrome regulation. Such phytochrome-dependent functions are hypothesized to allow light-dependent regulation, and feasibly tuning, of plastid components and function in response to changes in the external environment, which directly affects photosynthesis and the potential for light-induced damage. When the size and protein composition of the light-harvesting complexes are not tuned to the external environment, imbalances in electron transport can impact the cellular redox state and cause cellular damage. We show that phytochromes specifically regulate the expression of multiple factors that function to modulate plastid transcription and, thus, provide a paradigm for coordinate expression of the nuclear and plastid genomes in response to changes in external light conditions. As phytochromes respond to changes in the prevalent wavelengths of light and light intensity, we propose that specific phytochrome-dependent molecular mechanisms are used during light-dependent signaling between the nucleus and chloroplast during photomorphogenesis to coordinate chloroplast development with plant developmental stage and the external environment.
PMCID: PMC4012200  PMID: 24817873
anterograde signaling; light signaling; nuclear gene expression; plastid gene expression; phytochrome; sigma factor

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