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J Biol Chem. 2009 Sep 11;284(37):24783-96. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M109.025205. Epub 2009 Jul 15.

Porphyrins promote the association of GENOMES UNCOUPLED 4 and a Mg-chelatase subunit with chloroplast membranes.

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Department of Energy Plant Research Laboratory, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA.


In plants, chlorophylls and other tetrapyrroles are synthesized from a branched pathway that is located within chloroplasts. GUN4 (GENOMES UNCOUPLED 4) stimulates chlorophyll biosynthesis by activating Mg-chelatase, the enzyme that commits porphyrins to the chlorophyll branch. GUN4 stimulates Mg-chelatase by a mechanism that involves binding the ChlH subunit of Mg-chelatase, as well as a substrate (protoporphyrin IX) and product (Mg-protoporphyrin IX) of Mg-chelatase. We chose to test whether GUN4 might also affect interactions between Mg-chelatase and chloroplast membranes, the site of chlorophyll biosynthesis. To test this idea, we induced chlorophyll precursor levels in purified pea chloroplasts by feeding these chloroplasts with 5-aminolevulinic acid, determined the relative levels of GUN4 and Mg-chelatase subunits in soluble and membrane-containing fractions derived from these chloroplasts, and quantitated Mg-chelatase activity in membranes isolated from these chloroplasts. We also monitored GUN4 levels in the soluble and membrane-containing fractions derived from chloroplasts fed with various porphyrins. Our results indicate that 5-aminolevulinic acid feeding stimulates Mg-chelatase activity in chloroplast membranes and that the porphyrin-bound forms of GUN4 and possibly ChlH associate most stably with chloroplast membranes. These findings are consistent with GUN4 stimulating chlorophyll biosynthesis not only by activating Mg-chelatase but also by promoting interactions between ChlH and chloroplast membranes.

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