GUN4-Protoporphyrin IX Is a singlet oxygen generator with consequences for plastid retrograde signaling

Shabnam Tarahi Tabrizi, Artur Sawicki, Shuaixiang Zhou, Meizhong Luo, Robert D. Willows*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The genomes uncoupled 4 (GUN4) protein is a nuclear-encoded, chloroplast-localized, porphyrin-binding protein implicated in retrograde signaling between the chloroplast and nucleus, although its exact role in this process is still unclear. Functionally, it enhances Mg-chelatase activity in the chlorophyll biosynthesis pathway. Because GUN4 is present only in organisms that carry out oxygenic photosynthesis and because it binds protoporphyrin IX (PPIX) and Mg-PPIX, it has been suggested that it prevents production of light- and PPIX- or Mg-PPIX-dependent reactive oxygen species. A chld-1/GUN4 mutant with elevated PPIX has a light-dependent up-regulation of GUN4, implicating this protein in light-dependent sensing of PPIX, with the suggestion that GUN4 reduces PPIX-generated singlet oxygen, O2(a1Δg), and subsequent oxidative damage (Brzezowski, P., Schlicke, H., Richter, A., Dent, R. M., Niyogi, K. K., and Grimm, B. (2014) Plant J. 79, 285-298). In direct contrast, our results show that purified GUN4 and oxidatively damaged ChlH increase the rate of PPIX-generated singlet oxygen production in the light, by a factor of 5 and 10, respectively, when compared with PPIX alone. Additionally, the functional GUN4-PPIX-ChlH complex and ChlH-PPIX complexes generate O2(a1Δg) at a reduced rate when compared with GUN4-PPIX. As O2(a1Δg) is a potential plastid-to-nucleus signal, possibly through second messengers, light-dependent O2(a1Δg) generation by GUN4-PPIX is proposed to be part of a signal transduction pathway from the chloroplast to the nucleus. GUN4 thus senses the availability and flux of PPIX through the chlorophyll biosynthetic pathway and also modulates Mg-chelatase activity. The light-dependent O2(a1Δg) generation from GUN4-PPIX is thus proposed as the first step in retrograde signaling from the chloroplast to the nucleus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8978-8984
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2016

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