The physical and functional borders of transit peptide-like sequences in secondary endosymbionts

Felsner, Gregor; Sommer, Maik S.; Maier, Uwe G.
January 2010
BMC Plant Biology;2010, Vol. 10, p223
Academic Journal
Background: Plastids rely on protein supply by their host cells. In plastids surrounded by two membranes (primary plastids) targeting of these proteins is facilitated by an N-terminal targeting signal, the transit peptide. In secondary plastids (surrounded by three or four membranes), transit peptide-like regions are an essential part of a bipartite topogenic signal sequence (BTS), and generally found adjacent to a N-terminally located signal peptide of the plastid pre-proteins. As in primary plastids, for which no wealth of functional information about transit peptide features exists, the transit peptide-like regions used for import into secondary ones show some common features only, which are also poorly characterized. Results: We modified the BTS (in the transit peptide-like region) of the plastid precursor fucoxanthin-chlorophyll a/c binding protein D (FcpD) fused to GFP as model substrate for the characterization of pre-protein import into the secondary plastids of diatoms. Thereby we show that (i) pre-protein import is highly charge dependent. Positive net charge is necessary for transport across the plastid envelope, but not across the periplastid membrane. Acidic net charge perturbs pre-protein import within the ER. Moreover, we show that (ii) the mature domain of the pre-protein can provide intrinsic transit peptide functions. Conclusions: Our results indicate important characteristics of targeting signals of proteins imported into secondary plastids surrounded by four membranes. In addition, we show a self-targeting mechanism, in which the mature protein domain contributes to the transit peptide function. Thus, this phenomenon lowers the demand for presequences evolved during the course of endosymbiosis.


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