The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 49: 557 - 577 (2005)

Vol 49, Issue 5-6

Special Issue: Plant Development

Plastids unleashed: their development and their integration in plant development

Published: 1 August 2005

Enrique Lopez-Juez*,1 and Kevin A. Pyke2

1School of Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey, UK and 2Plant Sciences Division, School of BioSciences, University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonnington Campus, Loughborough, UK


Derived by endosymbiosis from ancestral cyanobacteria, chloroplasts integrated seamlessly into the biology of their host cell. That integration involved a massive transfer of genes to the cell's nucleus, with the modification of pre-existing processes, like plastid division and the operation of the plastid genetic machinery and the emergence of new ones, like the import of proteins translated in the cytoplasm. The uncovering in molecular detail of several of these processes reveals a merger of mechanisms of symbiont and host origin. Chloroplasts acquired roles as part of the biology of land plants by differentiating into a variety of interconvertible plastid forms according to the cell type. How these conversions take place, or how new problems, like the regulation of the plastid population size in cells, have been solved, is barely starting to be understood. Like the whole plant and as a result of the requirements and dangers associated with photosynthetic activity, chloroplasts in particular are under the control of environmental cues. Far from being passive targets of cellular processes, plastids are sources of signals of plastid-nuclear communication, which regulate activities for their own biogenesis. Plastids are also sources of developmental signals, in whose absence tissue architecture or cell differentiation are aberrant, in a cell-autonomous fashion. Over evolutionary time, plastids also contributed many genes for activities that are no longer directly associated with them (like light perception or hormone function). The overall picture is one in which plastids are at both the receiving and the acting ends in plant development, in both ontogenic and evolutionary terms.


chloroplast, plastid, photosynthesis, endosymbiotic, plastid-nuclear communication

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