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Plant J. 2005 Jun;42(6):821-31.

Calcium regulation of chloroplast protein import.

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Department of Biology I, LMU München, Menzinger Str. 67, D-80638 München, Germany.


The majority of chloroplast proteins is nuclear-encoded and therefore synthesized on cytosolic ribosomes. In order to enter the chloroplast, these proteins have to cross the double-membrane surrounding the organelle. This is achieved by means of two hetero-oligomeric protein complexes in the outer and inner envelope, the Toc and Tic translocon. The process of chloroplast import is highly regulated on both sides of the envelope membranes. Our studies indicate the existence of an undescribed mode of control for this process so far, at the same time providing further evidence that the chloroplast is integrated into the calcium-signalling network of the cell. In pea chloroplasts, the calmodulin inhibitor Ophiobolin A as well as the calcium ionophores A23187 and Ionomycin affect the translocation of those chloroplast proteins that are imported with an N-terminal cleavable presequence. Import of these proteins is inhibited in a concentration-dependent manner. Addition of external calmodulin or calcium can counter the effect of these inhibitors. Translocation of chloroplast proteins that do not possess a cleavable transit peptide, that is outer envelope proteins or the inner envelope protein Tic32, is not affected. These results suggest that the import of a certain subset of chloroplast proteins is regulated by calcium. Our studies furthermore indicate that this regulation occurs downstream of the Toc translocon either within the intermembrane space or at the inner envelope translocon. A potential promoter of the calcium regulation is calmodulin, a protein well known as part of the plant's calcium signalling system.

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