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UV-B photoreceptor-mediated protection of the photosynthetic machinery in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2016 Dec 20; 113 (51): 14864-14869
Life on earth is dependent on the photosynthetic conversion of light energy into chemical energy. However, absorption of excess sunlight can damage the photosynthetic machinery and limit photosynthetic activity, thereby affecting growth and productivity. Photosynthetic light harvesting can be down-regulated by nonphotochemical quenching (NPQ). A major component of NPQ is qE (energy-dependent nonphotochemical quenching), which allows dissipation of light energy as heat. Photodamage peaks in the UV-B part of the spectrum, but whether and how UV-B induces qE are unknown. Plants are responsive to UV-B via the UVR8 photoreceptor. Here, we report in the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii that UVR8 induces accumulation of specific members of the light-harvesting complex (LHC) superfamily that contribute to qE, in particular LHC Stress-Related 1 (LHCSR1) and Photosystem II Subunit S (PSBS). The capacity for qE is strongly induced by UV-B, although the patterns of qE-related proteins accumulating in response to UV-B or to high light are clearly different. The competence for qE induced by acclimation to UV-B markedly contributes to photoprotection upon subsequent exposure to high light. Our study reveals an anterograde link between photoreceptor-mediated signaling in the nucleocytosolic compartment and the photoprotective regulation of photosynthetic activity in the chloroplast.
A Nucleus-Encoded Chloroplast Phosphoprotein Governs Expression of the Photosystem I Subunit PsaC in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.
Plant Cell, 2016 May; 28 (5): 1182-1199
The nucleo-cytoplasmic compartment exerts anterograde control on chloroplast gene expression through numerous proteins that intervene at posttranscriptional steps. Here, we show that the maturation of psaC mutant (mac1) of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii is defective in photosystem I and fails to accumulate psaC mRNA. The MAC1 locus encodes a member of the Half-A-Tetratricopeptide (HAT) family of super-helical repeat proteins, some of which are involved in RNA transactions. The Mac1 protein localizes to the chloroplast in the soluble fraction. MAC1 acts through the 5' untranslated region of psaC transcripts and is required for their stability. Small RNAs that map to the 5'end of psaC RNA in the wild type but not in the mac1 mutant are inferred to represent footprints of MAC1-dependent protein binding, and Mac1 expressed in bacteria binds RNA in vitro. A coordinate response to iron deficiency, which leads to dismantling of the photosynthetic electron transfer chain and in particular of photosystem I, also causes a decrease of Mac1. Overexpression of Mac1 leads to a parallel increase in psaC mRNA but not in PsaC protein, suggesting that Mac1 may be limiting for psaC mRNA accumulation but that other processes regulate protein accumulation. Furthermore, Mac 1 is differentially phosphorylated in response to iron availability and to conditions that alter the redox balance of the electron transfer chain.
A pioneer protein is part of a large complex involved in trans-splicing of a group II intron in the chloroplast of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.
Plant J, 2016 Jan; 85 (1): 57-69
Splicing of organellar introns requires the activity of numerous nucleus-encoded factors. In the chloroplast of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, maturation of psaA mRNA encoding photosystem I subunit A involves two steps of trans-splicing. The exons, located on three separate transcripts, are flanked by sequences that fold to form the conserved structures of two group II introns. A fourth transcript contributes to assembly of the first intron, which is thus tripartite. The raa7 mutant (RNA maturation of psaA 7) is deficient in trans-splicing of the second intron of psaA, and may be rescued by transforming the chloroplast genome with an intron-less version of psaA. Using mapped-based cloning, we identify the RAA7 locus, which encodes a pioneer protein with no previously known protein domain or motif. The Raa7 protein, which is not associated with membranes, localizes to the chloroplast. Raa7 is a component of a large complex and co-sediments in sucrose gradients with the previously described splicing factors Raa1 and Raa2. Based on tandem affinity purification of Raa7 and mass spectrometry, Raa1 and Raa2 were identified as interacting partners of Raa7. Yeast two-hybrid experiments indicate that the interaction of Raa7 with Raa1 and Raa2 may be direct. We conclude that Raa7 is a component of a multimeric complex that is required for trans-splicing of the second intron of psaA. The characterization of this psaA trans-splicing complex is also of interest from an evolutionary perspective because the nuclear spliceosomal introns are thought to derive from group II introns, with which they show mechanistic and structural similarity.
Phosphorylation of the Light-Harvesting Complex II Isoform Lhcb2 Is Central to State Transitions.
Plant Physiol, 2015 Dec; 169 (4): 2874-2883
Light-harvesting complex II (LHCII) is a crucial component of the photosynthetic machinery, with central roles in light capture and acclimation to changing light. The association of an LHCII trimer with PSI in the PSI-LHCII supercomplex is strictly dependent on LHCII phosphorylation mediated by the kinase STATE TRANSITION7, and is directly related to the light acclimation process called state transitions. In Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana), the LHCII trimers contain isoforms that belong to three classes: Lhcb1, Lhcb2, and Lhcb3. Only Lhcb1 and Lhcb2 can be phosphorylated in the N-terminal region. Here, we present an improved Phos-tag-based method to determine the absolute extent of phosphorylation of Lhcb1 and Lhcb2. Both classes show very similar phosphorylation kinetics during state transition. Nevertheless, only Lhcb2 is extensively phosphorylated (>98%) in PSI-LHCII, whereas phosphorylated Lhcb1 is largely excluded from this supercomplex. Both isoforms are phosphorylated to different extents in other photosystem supercomplexes and in different domains of the thylakoid membranes. The data imply that, despite their high sequence similarity, differential phosphorylation of Lhcb1 and Lhcb2 plays contrasting roles in light acclimation of photosynthesis.
A nucleus-encoded chloroplast protein regulated by iron availability governs expression of the photosystem I subunit PsaA in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.
Plant Physiol, 2015 Apr; 167 (4): 1527-1540
The biogenesis of the photosynthetic electron transfer chain in the thylakoid membranes requires the concerted expression of genes in the chloroplast and the nucleus. Chloroplast gene expression is subjected to anterograde control by a battery of nucleus-encoded proteins that are imported in the chloroplast, where they mostly intervene at posttranscriptional steps. Using a new genetic screen, we identify a nuclear mutant that is required for expression of the PsaA subunit of photosystem I (PSI) in the chloroplast of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. This mutant is affected in the stability and translation of psaA messenger RNA. The corresponding gene, TRANSLATION OF psaA1 (TAA1), encodes a large protein with two domains that are thought to mediate RNA binding: an array of octatricopeptide repeats (OPR) and an RNA-binding domain abundant in apicomplexans (RAP) domain. We show that as expected for its function, TAA1 is localized in the chloroplast. It was previously shown that when mixotrophic cultures of C. reinhardtii (which use both photosynthesis and mitochondrial respiration for growth) are shifted to conditions of iron limitation, there is a strong decrease in the accumulation of PSI and that this is rapidly reversed when iron is resupplied. Under these conditions, TAA1 protein is also down-regulated through a posttranscriptional mechanism and rapidly reaccumulates when iron is restored. These observations reveal a concerted regulation of PSI and of TAA1 in response to iron availability.
On the complexity of chloroplast RNA metabolism: psaA trans-splicing can be bypassed in chlamydomonas.
Mol Biol Evol, 2014 Oct; 31 (10): 2697-2707
In the chloroplast, the posttranscriptional steps of gene expression are remarkably complex. RNA maturation and translation rely on a large cohort of nucleus-encoded proteins that act specifically on a single target transcript or a small set of targets. For example in the chloroplast of Chlamydomonas, trans-splicing of the two split introns of psaA requires at least 14 nucleus-encoded proteins. To investigate the functional significance of this complex trans-splicing pathway, we have introduced an intron-less copy of psaA in the chloroplast genomes of three mutants deficient in trans-splicing and of the wild type. We find that the intron-less psaA gene rescues the mutant phenotypes. The growth of strains with the intron-less psaA is indistinguishable from the wild type under the set of different experimental conditions that were investigated. Thus, the trans-splicing factors do not appear to have any other essential function and trans-splicing of psaA can be bypassed. We discuss how these observations support the hypothesis that complex RNA metabolism in the chloroplast may in part be the result of a nonadaptive evolutionary ratchet. Genetic drift may lead to the accumulation of chloroplast mutations and the recruitment of compensatory nuclear suppressors from large preexisting pools of genes encoding RNA-binding proteins.
Small RNAs reveal two target sites of the RNA-maturation factor Mbb1 in the chloroplast of Chlamydomonas.
Nucleic Acids Res, 2014 Mar; 42 (5): 3286-3297
Many chloroplast transcripts are protected against exonucleolytic degradation by RNA-binding proteins. Such interactions can lead to the accumulation of short RNAs (sRNAs) that represent footprints of the protein partner. By mining existing data sets of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii small RNAs, we identify chloroplast sRNAs. Two of these correspond to the 5'-ends of the mature psbB and psbH messenger RNAs (mRNAs), which are both stabilized by the nucleus-encoded protein Mbb1, a member of the tetratricopeptide repeat family. Accordingly, we find that the two sRNAs are absent from the mbb1 mutant. Using chloroplast transformation and site-directed mutagenesis to survey the psbB 5' UTR, we identify a cis-acting element that is essential for mRNA accumulation. This sequence is also found in the 5' UTR of psbH, where it plays a role in RNA processing. The two sRNAs are centered on these cis-acting elements. Furthermore, RNA binding assays in vitro show that Mbb1 associates with the two elements specifically. Taken together, our data identify a conserved cis-acting element at the extremity of the psbH and psbB 5' UTRs that plays a role in the processing and stability of the respective mRNAs through interactions with the tetratricopeptide repeat protein Mbb1 and leads to the accumulation of protected sRNAs.
Protein kinases and phosphatases involved in the acclimation of the photosynthetic apparatus to a changing light environment.
Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, 2012 Dec 19; 367 (1608): 3466-3474
Photosynthetic organisms are subjected to frequent changes in light quality and quantity and need to respond accordingly. These acclimatory processes are mediated to a large extent through thylakoid protein phosphorylation. Recently, two major thylakoid protein kinases have been identified and characterized. The Stt7/STN7 kinase is mainly involved in the phosphorylation of the LHCII antenna proteins and is required for state transitions. It is firmly associated with the cytochrome b(6)f complex, and its activity is regulated by the redox state of the plastoquinone pool. The other kinase, Stl1/STN8, is responsible for the phosphorylation of the PSII core proteins. Using a reverse genetics approach, we have recently identified the chloroplast PPH1/TAP38 and PBPC protein phosphatases, which counteract the activity of STN7 and STN8 kinases, respectively. They belong to the PP2C-type phosphatase family and are conserved in land plants and algae. The picture that emerges from these studies is that of a complex regulatory network of chloroplast protein kinases and phosphatases that is involved in light acclimation, in maintenance of the plastoquinone redox poise under fluctuating light and in the adjustment to metabolic needs.
Identification of a photosystem II phosphatase involved in light acclimation in Arabidopsis.
Plant Cell, 2012 Jun; 24 (6): 2596-2609
Reversible protein phosphorylation plays a major role in the acclimation of the photosynthetic apparatus to changes in light. Two paralogous kinases phosphorylate subsets of thylakoid membrane proteins. STATE TRANSITION7 (STN7) phosphorylates LHCII, the light-harvesting antenna of photosystem II (PSII), to balance the activity of the two photosystems through state transitions. STN8, which is mainly involved in phosphorylation of PSII core subunits, influences folding of the thylakoid membranes and repair of PSII after photodamage. The rapid reversibility of these acclimatory responses requires the action of protein phosphatases. In a reverse genetic screen, we identified the chloroplast PP2C phosphatase, PHOTOSYSTEM II CORE PHOSPHATASE (PBCP), which is required for efficient dephosphorylation of PSII proteins. Its targets, identified by immunoblotting and mass spectrometry, largely coincide with those of the kinase STN8. The recombinant phosphatase is active in vitro on a synthetic substrate or on isolated thylakoids. Thylakoid folding is affected in the absence of PBCP, while its overexpression alters the kinetics of state transitions. PBCP and STN8 form an antagonistic kinase and phosphatase pair whose substrate specificity and physiological functions are distinct from those of STN7 and the counteracting phosphatase PROTEIN PHOSPHATASE1/THYLAKOID-ASSOCIATED PHOSPHATASE38, but their activities may overlap to some degree.
The phosphorylation status of the chloroplast protein kinase STN7 of Arabidopsis affects its turnover.
Plant Physiol, 2011 Dec; 157 (4): 2102-2107
The chloroplast serine-threonine protein kinase STN7 of Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) is required for the phosphorylation of the light-harvesting system of photosystem II and for state transitions, a process that allows the photosynthetic machinery to balance the light excitation energy between photosystem II and photosystem I and thereby to optimize the photosynthetic yield. Because the STN7 protein kinase of Arabidopsis is known to be phosphorylated at four serine-threonine residues, we have changed these residues by site-directed mutagenesis to alanine (STN7-4A) or aspartic acid (STN7-4D) to assess the role of these phosphorylation events. The corresponding mutants were still able to phosphorylate the light-harvesting system of photosystem II and to perform state transitions. Moreover, we noticed a marked decrease in the level of the STN7 kinase in the wild-type strain under prolonged state 1 conditions that no longer occurs in the STN7-4D mutant. The results suggest a possible role of phosphorylation of the STN7 kinase in regulating its turnover.
The chloroplast transformation toolbox: selectable markers and marker removal.
Plant Biotechnol J, 2011 Jun; 9 (5): 540-553
Plastid transformation is widely used in basic research and for biotechnological applications. Initially developed in Chlamydomonas and tobacco, it is now feasible in a broad range of species. Selection of transgenic lines where all copies of the polyploid plastid genome are transformed requires efficient markers. A number of traits have been used for selection such as photoautotrophy, resistance to antibiotics and tolerance to herbicides or to other metabolic inhibitors. Restoration of photosynthesis is an effective primary selection method in Chlamydomonas but can only serve as a screening tool in flowering plants. The most successful and widely used markers are derived from bacterial genes that inactivate antibiotics, such as aadA that confers resistance to spectinomycin and streptomycin. For many applications, the presence of a selectable marker that confers antibiotic resistance is not desirable. Efficient marker removal methods are a major attraction of the plastid engineering tool kit. They exploit the homologous recombination and segregation pathways acting on chloroplast genomes and are based on direct repeats, transient co-integration or co-transformation and segregation of trait and marker genes. Foreign site-specific recombinases and their target sites provide an alternative and effective method for removing marker genes from plastids.
Enhanced chloroplast transgene expression in a nuclear mutant of Chlamydomonas.
Plant Biotechnol J, 2011 Jun; 9 (5): 565-574
Chloroplast transformation in microalgae offers great promise for the production of proteins of pharmaceutical interest or for the development of novel biofuels. For many applications, high level expression of transgenes is desirable. We have transformed the chloroplast of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii with two genes, acrV and vapA, which encode antigens from the fish pathogen Aeromonas salmonicida. The promoters and 5' untranslated regions of four chloroplast genes were compared for their ability to drive expression of the bacterial genes. The highest levels of expression were obtained when they were placed under the control of the cis-acting elements from the psaA-exon1 gene. The expression of these chimeric genes was further increased when a nuclear mutation that affects a factor involved in psaA splicing was introduced in the genetic background of the chloroplast transformants. Accumulation of both the chimeric mRNAs and the recombinant proteins was dramatically increased, indicating that negative feedback loops limit the expression of chloroplast transgenes. Our results demonstrate the potential of manipulating anterograde signalling to alter negative regulatory feedback loops in the chloroplast and improve transgene expression.
The PPH1 phosphatase is specifically involved in LHCII dephosphorylation and state transitions in Arabidopsis.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2010 Mar 9; 107 (10): 4782-4787
The ability of plants to adapt to changing light conditions depends on a protein kinase network in the chloroplast that leads to the reversible phosphorylation of key proteins in the photosynthetic membrane. Phosphorylation regulates, in a process called state transition, a profound reorganization of the electron transfer chain and remodeling of the thylakoid membranes. Phosphorylation governs the association of the mobile part of the light-harvesting antenna LHCII with either photosystem I or photosystem II. Recent work has identified the redox-regulated protein kinase STN7 as a major actor in state transitions, but the nature of the corresponding phosphatases remained unknown. Here we identify a phosphatase of Arabidopsis thaliana, called PPH1, which is specifically required for the dephosphorylation of light-harvesting complex II (LHCII). We show that this single phosphatase is largely responsible for the dephosphorylation of Lhcb1 and Lhcb2 but not of the photosystem II core proteins. PPH1, which belongs to the family of monomeric PP2C type phosphatases, is a chloroplast protein and is mainly associated with the stroma lamellae of the thylakoid membranes. We demonstrate that loss of PPH1 leads to an increase in the antenna size of photosystem I and to a strong impairment of state transitions. Thus phosphorylation and dephosphorylation of LHCII appear to be specifically mediated by the kinase/phosphatase pair STN7 and PPH1. These two proteins emerge as key players in the adaptation of the photosynthetic apparatus to changes in light quality and quantity.
Chloroplast RNA metabolism.
Annu Rev Plant Biol, 2010; 61 : 125-155
The chloroplast genome encodes proteins required for photosynthesis, gene expression, and other essential organellar functions. Derived from a cyanobacterial ancestor, the chloroplast combines prokaryotic and eukaryotic features of gene expression and is regulated by many nucleus-encoded proteins. This review covers four major chloroplast posttranscriptional processes: RNA processing, editing, splicing, and turnover. RNA processing includes the generation of transcript 5' and 3' termini, as well as the cleavage of polycistronic transcripts. Editing converts specific C residues to U and often changes the amino acid that is specified by the edited codon. Chloroplasts feature introns of groups I and II, which undergo protein-facilitated cis- or trans-splicing in vivo. Each of these RNA-based processes involves proteins of the pentatricopeptide motif-containing family, which does not occur in prokaryotes. Plant-specific RNA-binding proteins may underpin the adaptation of the chloroplast to the eukaryotic context.
Redundant cis-acting determinants of 3' processing and RNA stability in the chloroplast rbcL mRNA of Chlamydomonas.
Plant J, 2008 Feb; 53 (3): 566-577
We have designed a screen for mutants affected in 3' maturation of the chloroplast rbcL mRNA in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. We inserted a spectinomycin resistance cassette, 5'atpA::aadA::3'rbcL, in a peripheral domain of tscA, the gene for a small non-coding RNA involved in trans-splicing of psaA. Depending on the orientation of the cassette, a polar effect was observed which was due to processing at the 3'rbcL element: the chimeric tscA RNA was truncated and splicing of psaA was blocked. We selected phenotypic revertants of this insertion mutant that restored psaA splicing, which correlated with the presence of chimeric transcripts that regained the 3' part of tscA. We analyzed two nuclear and six chloroplast suppressors. Five chloroplast mutations altered a short element in the center of the second inverted repeat in the 3'rbcL (IR2), and one deleted a larger region including this element. These mutations revealed a cis-acting element in IR2 which is required for 3' processing. When the same mutations were inserted in the 3' untranslated region (UTR) of the native rbcL gene, the rbcL mRNA accumulated to normal levels, but in strong alleles its 3' end was located upstream, near the end of the first inverted repeat (IR1). Deletion of either IR1 or IR2 allowed stable accumulation of rbcL mRNA, but deletion of both resulted in its complete absence. This indicated that the two inverted repeats function as redundant mRNA stability determinants in the 3' UTR of rbcL.