Ubiquitin facilitates a quality-control pathway that removes damaged chloroplasts

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Science  23 Oct 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6259, pp. 450-454
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac7444

Quality control one chloroplast at a time

How do plant cells get rid of chloroplasts that are not working as they should? Woodson et al. describe a chloroplast quality-control pathway that allows for the selective elimination of individual chloroplasts. Damage by reactive oxygen species during photosynthesis is recognized by a ubiquitin ligase, which marks out damaged chloroplasts for degradation. The findings reveal how cells balance inherently stressful energy production with organelle turnover.

Science, this issue p. 450


Energy production by chloroplasts and mitochondria causes constant oxidative damage. A functioning photosynthetic cell requires quality-control mechanisms to turn over and degrade chloroplasts damaged by reactive oxygen species (ROS). Here, we generated a conditionally lethal Arabidopsis mutant that accumulated excess protoporphyrin IX in the chloroplast and produced singlet oxygen. Damaged chloroplasts were subsequently ubiquitinated and selectively degraded. A genetic screen identified the plant U-box 4 (PUB4) E3 ubiquitin ligase as being necessary for this process. pub4-6 mutants had defects in stress adaptation and longevity. Thus, we have identified a signal that leads to the targeted removal of ROS-overproducing chloroplasts.

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