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University of Zurich, Institute of Plant Biology, Zollikerstrasse 107, Zurich, CH 8008 Switzerland; e-mail:, Cell Biology Department, Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research, Plas Gogerddan, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 3EB, United Kingdom; e-mail:


Although the loss of green color in senescent leaves and ripening fruits is a spectacular natural phenomenon, research on chlorophyll breakdown has been largely neglected until recently. This review summarizes knowledge about the fate of chlorophyll in degreening tissues that has been gained during the past few years. Structures of end- and intermediary products of degradation as well as the biochemistry of the porphyrin-cleaving reaction have been elucidated. The intracellular localization of the catabolic pathway is particularly important in the regulation of chlorophyll breakdown. None of the genes encoding the related catabolic enzymes has so far been isolated, which makes chlorophyll degradation an area of opportunity for future research.

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