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Genetics. 2010 Aug;185(4):1167-81. doi: 10.1534/genetics.110.118265. Epub 2010 Jun 2.

Differential replication of two chloroplast genome forms in heteroplasmic Chlamydomonas reinhardtii gametes contributes to alternative inheritance patterns.

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  • 1Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA.


Two mechanisms for chloroplast DNA replication have been revealed through the study of an unusual heteroplasmic strain of the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Heteroplasmy is a state in which more than one genome type occurs in a mitochondrion or chloroplast. The Chlamydomonas strain spa19 bears two distinct chloroplast genomes, termed PS+ and PS-. PS+ genomes predominate and are stably maintained in vegetative cells, despite their lack of known replication origins. In sexual crosses with spa19 as the mating type plus parent, however, PS+ genomes are transmitted in only approximately 25% of tetrads, whereas the PS- genomes are faithfully inherited in all progeny. In this research, we have explored the mechanism underlying this biased uniparental inheritance. We show that the relative reduction and dilution of PS+ vs. PS- genomes takes place during gametogenesis. Bromodeoxyuridine labeling, followed by immunoprecipitation and PCR, was used to compare replication activities of PS+ and PS- genomes. We found that the replication of PS+ genomes is specifically suppressed during gametogenesis and germination of zygospores, a phenomenon that also was observed when spa19 cells were treated with rifampicin, an inhibitor of the chloroplast RNA polymerase. Furthermore, when bromodeoxyuridine incorporation was compared at 11 sites within the chloroplast genome between vegetative cells, gametes, and rifampicin-treated cells by quantitative PCR, we found that incorporation was often reduced at the same sites in gametes that were also sensitive to rifampicin treatment. We conclude that a transcription-mediated form of DNA replication priming, which may be downregulated during gametogenesis, is indispensable for robust maintenance of PS+ genomes. These results highlight the potential for chloroplast genome copy number regulation through alternative replication strategies.

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