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Chloroplast to nucleus communication triggered by accumulation of Mg-protoporphyrinIX


Plant cells coordinately regulate the expression of nuclear and plastid genes that encode components of the photosynthetic apparatus. Nuclear genes that regulate chloroplast development and chloroplast gene expression provide part of this coordinate control. There is evidence that information also flows in the opposite direction, from chloroplasts to the nucleus1,2. Until now, at least three different signalling pathways have been identified that originate in the plastid and control nuclear gene expression3,4 but the molecular nature of these signals has remained unknown. Here we show that the tetrapyrrole intermediate Mg-protoporphyrin (Mg-ProtoIX) acts as a signalling molecule in one of the signalling pathways between the chloroplast and nucleus. Accumulation of Mg-ProtoIX is both necessary and sufficient to regulate the expression of many nuclear genes encoding chloroplastic proteins associated with photosynthesis.

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Figure 2: Northern blot analysis indicates a role for Mg-ProtoIX as a negative regulator of LHCB expression.
Figure 1: Micorarray analysis demonstrates that a large number of nuclear encoded genes are regulated by the plastid signal.
Figure 3: The Mg-ProtoIX-mediated signal is received by the CUF element of the LHCB1 promoter.
Figure 4: Models for the Mg-ProtoIX mediated plastid signal.


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We thank M. Schmid for help with GeneSpring analysis, H. Chen for promoter analysis, J. Nemhauser for discussions and comments on the manuscript, and L. Barden for assistance with manuscript preparation. We thank Sumitomo Chemical Co. Ltd. for providing us with S23142. This work was supported by a grant from the Department of Energy to J.C. and The Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Å.S. is an EMBO postdoctoral fellow.

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Correspondence to Joanne Chory.

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Strand, Å., Asami, T., Alonso, J. et al. Chloroplast to nucleus communication triggered by accumulation of Mg-protoporphyrinIX. Nature 421, 79–83 (2003).

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