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Recent findings have revealed important and diverse roles for the ubiquitin modification of proteins in the regulation of endosymbiotic organelles, which include the primary plastids of plants as well as complex plastids: the secondary endosymbiotic organelles of cryptophytes, alveolates, stramenopiles, and haptophytes. Ubiquitin modifications have a variety of potential consequences, both to the modified protein itself and to cellular regulation. The ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) can target individual proteins for selective degradation by the cytosolic 26S proteasome. Ubiquitin modifications can also signal the removal of whole endosymbiotic organelles, for example, via autophagy as has been well characterized in mitochondria. As plastids must import over 90% of their proteins from the cytosol, the observation that the UPS selectively targets the plastid protein import machinery is particularly significant. In this way, the UPS may influence the development and interconversions of different plastid types, as well as plastid responses to stress, by reconfiguring the organellar proteome. In complex plastids, the Symbiont-derived ERAD-Like Machinery (SELMA) has coopted the protein transport capabilities of the ER-Associated Degradation (ERAD) system, whereby misfolded proteins are retrotranslocated from ER for proteasomal degradation, uncoupling them from proteolysis: SELMA components have been retargeted to the second outermost plastid membrane to mediate protein import. In spite of this wealth of new information, there still remain a large number of unanswered questions and a need to define the roles of ubiquitin modification further in the regulation of plastids.

Original publication




Journal article


Int Rev Cell Mol Biol

Publication Date





1 - 33


SELMA, chloroplast, endosymbiotic, plastid, proteasome, stresses, transmembrane transport, ubiquitin, Animals, Humans, Models, Biological, Plastids, Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex, Symbiosis, Ubiquitin