Studies on the carotenoid-overaccumulating structures in chromoplasts have led to the characterization of proteins termed plastid lipid-associated proteins (PAPs), involved in the sequestration of hydrophobic compounds. Here we characterize the PAP CHRD, which, based on sequence homology, belongs to a highly conserved group of proteins, YER057c/YjgF/UK114, involved in the regulation of basic and vital cellular processes in bacteria, yeast and animals. Two nuclear genes were characterized in tomato plants: one (LeChrDc) is constitutively expressed in various tissues and the other (LeChrDi) is induced by stress in leaves and is upregulated by developmental cues in floral tissues. Using RNAi and antisense approaches, we show their involvement in biologically significant processes such as photosynthesis. The quantum yield of photosynthetic electron flow in transgenic tomato leaves with suppressed LeChrDi/c expression was 30-50% of their control, non-transgenic counterparts and was ascribed to lower PSI activity. Transgenic flowers with suppressed LeChrDi/c also accumulated up to 30% less carotenoids per unit protein as compared to control plants, indicating an interrelationship between PAPs and floral-specific carotenoid accumulation in chromoplasts. We suggest that CHRD's role in the angiosperm reproductive unit may be a rather recent evolutionary development; its original function may have been to protect the plant under stress conditions by preserving plastid functionality.
- YjgF protein