Chin Bull Bot ›› 2018, Vol. 53 ›› Issue (4): 441-444.doi: 10.11983/CBB18087

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Death Signal Transduction: Chloroplast-to-Mitochondrion Communication Regulates Programmed Cell Death in Plants

He Guangming, Deng Xingwang*()   

  1. Peking-Tsinghua Center for Life Sciences/State Key Laboratory of Protein and Plant Gene Research/School of Advanced Agricultural Sciences and School of Life Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
  • Received:2018-04-04 Accepted:2018-04-16 Online:2018-05-04 Published:2018-07-01
  • Contact: Deng Xingwang
  • About author:† These authors contributed equally to this paper


Programmed cell death (PCD) is an active and genetically controlled process that results in cell death in a multicellular organism. PCD plays important roles in plant development and defense and can be induced by increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) in mitochondria. Previous studies by Jiayang Li’s group in the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences identified a cell death mutant, mod1, in Arabidopsis. Although the authors suggested that signal communication between chloroplast and mitochondrion contributes to PCD in mod1, the underlying mechanisms remain elusive. Recently, by screening the suppressors of mod1, they cloned three new suppressor genes, plNAD-MDH, DiT1 and mMDH1, which encode a plastid-localized NAD-dependent malate dehydrogenase, a chloroplastic dicarboxylate transporter, and a mitochondrial malate dehydrogenase, respectively. Mutations in these three genes each can suppress ROS accumulation and PCD in mod1. Functional analyses of these genes demonstrated that malate is transported from chloroplasts to mitochondria and triggers ROS generation and PCD in plant. This study expands our knowledge of intracellular communications between organelles and provides new understanding of molecular mechanisms of PCD in plants, which is an important progress in this field.

Key words: chloroplast, mitochondrion, malate, reactive oxygen species, programmed cell death

Figure 1

A proposed model explaining the programmed cell death in plants regulated by chloroplast-to-mitochondrion communication (modified from Zhao et al., 2018)In plants, MOD1 encodes an enoyl-acyl carrier protein (ACP) reductase, which is involved in catalyzing the de novo biosynthesis of fatty acids in plastids using NADH as cosubstrate. The deficiency of MOD1 in mod1 mutant leads to an increased level of NADH/H+ in the chloroplast, which drives oxaloacetate to be converted to malate by plNAD-MDH. Malate carrying the reducing equivalents is transported out of the chloroplast into the cytosol by DiT1, which is localized in the chloroplast inner envelope membrane, and then is trans- ported into the mitochondrion by an unidentified transporter localized in the mitochondrion membrane. In the mitochondrion, malate is converted to oxaloacetate by mMDH1, and simultaneously NADH/H+ is generated to provide electrons for mETC complex I (CI) to induce the ROS formation and initiate the PCD process in the mod1 cells."

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