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Plant Cell. 1999 Jul;11(7):1277-92.

Elevated glutathione biosynthetic capacity in the chloroplasts of transgenic tobacco plants paradoxically causes increased oxidative stress

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John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, Colney, Norwich NR4 7UH, United Kingdom.


Glutathione (GSH), a major antioxidant in most aerobic organisms, is perceived to be particularly important in plant chloroplasts because it helps to protect the photosynthetic apparatus from oxidative damage. In transgenic tobacco plants overexpressing a chloroplast-targeted gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase (gamma-ECS), foliar levels of GSH were raised threefold. Paradoxically, increased GSH biosynthetic capacity in the chloroplast resulted in greatly enhanced oxidative stress, which was manifested as light intensity-dependent chlorosis or necrosis. This phenotype was associated with foliar pools of both GSH and gamma-glutamylcysteine (the immediate precursor to GSH) being in a more oxidized state. Further manipulations of both the content and redox state of the foliar thiol pools were achieved using hybrid transgenic plants with enhanced glutathione synthetase or glutathione reductase activity in addition to elevated levels of gamma-ECS. Given the results of these experiments, we suggest that gamma-ECS-transformed plants suffered continuous oxidative damage caused by a failure of the redox-sensing process in the chloroplast.

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