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Tetrapyrroles such as chlorophyll, heme, and bacteriochlorophyll play fundamental roles in the energy absorption and transduction of all photosynthetic organisms. They are synthesized via a complex pathway taking place in chloroplasts. Chlorophyll biosynthesis in angiosperms involves 16 steps of which only one is light-requiring and driven by the NADPH:protochlorophyllide oxidoreductase (POR). Three POR isoforms have been identified in Arabidopsis thaliana--designated PORA, PORB, and PORC--that are differentially expressed in etiolated, light-exposed, and light-adapted plants. All three isoforms are encoded by nuclear genes, are synthesized as larger precursors in the cytosol (pPORs), and are imported posttranslationally into the plastid compartment. Import of the precursor to the dark-specific isoform PORA (pPORA) is protochlorophyllide (Pchlide)-dependent and due to the operation of a unique translocon complex dubbed PTC (Pchlide-dependent translocon complex) in the plastid envelope. Here, we identified a ∼30-kDa protein that participates in pPORA import. The ∼30-kDa protein is identical to the previously identified CELL GROWTH DEFECT FACTOR 1 (CDF1) in Arabidopsis that is conserved in higher plants and Synechocystis. CDF1 operates in pPORA import and stabilization and hereby acts as a chaperone for PORA protein translocation. CDF1 permits tight interactions between Pchlide synthesized in the plastid envelope and the importing PORA polypeptide chain such that no photoexcitative damage occurs through the generation of singlet oxygen operating as a cell death inducer. Together, our results identify an ancient mechanism dating back to the endosymbiotic origin of chloroplasts as a key element of Pchlide-dependent pPORA import.


Steffen Reinbothe, John Gray, Sachin Rustgi, Diter von Wettstein, Christiane Reinbothe. Cell growth defect factor 1 is crucial for the plastid import of NADPH:protochlorophyllide oxidoreductase A in Arabidopsis thaliana. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2015 May 5;112(18):5838-43

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PMID: 25901327

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