The chloroplast connection
Thylakoid Membrane Architecture in Synechocystis Depends on CurT, a Homolog of the Granal CURVATURE THYLAKOID1 Proteins
Steffen Heinz , Anna Rast, Lin Shao, Andrian Gutu, Irene L. Gügel, Eiri Heyno, Mathias Labs, Birgit Rengstl, Stefania Viola, Marc M Nowaczyk, Dario Leister and Jörg Nickelsen
The Plant Cell 2016 http://dx.doi.org/10.1105/tpc.16.00491
Excerpt LMU press release September 1, 2016:
Blue-green algae may look simple, but their photosynthetic apparatus certainly isn’t. Its mode of assembly remains puzzling, but the loss of a small protein, variants of which are found in higher plants, clearly causes a lot to go wrong.
Green plants are not the only organisms that possess the ability to harvest solar energy to power their metabolism. In fact, evolution had endowed unicellular green and blue-green algae with the capacity for photosynthesis long before multicellular plants appeared on the scene. The essential steps in photosynthesis are carried out by macromolecular complexes consisting of multiple pigments and proteins, which are embedded in specialized intracellular membranes called thylakoids, whose composition and arrangement varies between the major groups of photosynthetic organisms. The fabrication of these complexes is akin to the process of piecing together a jigsaw puzzle, some of whose parts have not yet been located. Researchers led by Jörg Nickelsen, Professor of Molecular Plant Sciences at the LMU, have now identified and placed one of the missing pieces. Nickelsen and his colleagues are studying the biogenesis of the thylakoid membrane in Synechocystis 6803, which serves as a model for the molecular and cell biology of blue-green algae (otherwise known as cyanobacteria). Among other things, they are interested in the function of a comparatively small protein called CurT, which – it now turns out – is essential for correct assembly of the thylakoids in cyanobacteria. In a paper which has just been published in the leading plant journal The Plant Cell, they show that CurT plays a crucial role for the early phase of the intricate and highly regulated process of thylakoid biogenesis.