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Defects in chloroplast development are 'retrograde-signalled' to the nucleus, reducing synthesis of photosynthetic or related proteins. The Arabidopsiscue8 mutant manifests virescence, a slow-greening phenotype, and is defective at an early stage in plastid development. Greening cotyledons or early leaf cells of cue8 exhibit immature chloroplasts which fail to fill the available cellular space. Such chloroplasts show reduced expression of genes of photosynthetic function, dependent on the plastid-encoded polymerase (PEP), while the expression of genes of housekeeping function driven by the nucleus-encoded polymerase (NEP) is elevated, a phenotype shared with mutants in plastid genetic functions. We attribute this phenotype to reduced expression of specific PEP-controlling sigma factors, elevated expression of RPOT (NEP) genes and maintained replication of plastid genomes (resulting in densely coalesced nucleoids in the mutant), i.e. it is due to an anterograde nucleus-to-chloroplast correction, analogous to retention of a juvenile plastid state. Mutants in plastid protein import components, particularly those involved in housekeeping protein import, also show this 'retro-anterograde' correction. Loss of CUE8 also causes changes in mRNA editing. The overall response has strong fitness value: loss of GUN1, an integrator of retrograde signalling, abolishes elements of it (albeit not others, including editing changes), causing bleaching and eventual seedling lethality upon cue8 gun1. This highlights the adaptive significance of virescence and retrograde signalling. This article is part of the theme issue 'Retrograde signalling from endosymbiotic organelles'.

Original publication




Journal article


Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci

Publication Date





CUE8, GUN1, RNA editing, chloroplast, nucleoid, retrograde signalling