Proteins homologous to fibrillin, a pepper plastid lipid-associated protein involved in carotenoid storage in fruit chromoplasts, have been recently identified in leaf chloroplasts from several species and shown to be induced upon environmental stress. To further investigate the role of the protein, transgenic Nicotiana tabacum plants over-expressing fibrillin using a constitutive promoter were generated. Transgenics grown under standard light intensities (300 micromol photons m-2 sec-1) were found to contain substantial amounts of fibrillin in flowers and leaves. In leaves, the protein was immunolocalized within chloroplasts in both stromal and thylakoid subfractions. No change was noticed in thylakoid structures from transgenics, but chloroplasts contained an increased number of plastoglobules organized in clusters. In petals, leucoplasts were also found to contain more agglutinated plastoglobules. The effects of environmental factors on fibrillin gene expression and protein localization were studied in tobacco leaves. Less fibrillin was present in plants grown under low light intensities, which can be explained by the involvement of a light-dependent splicing step in the control of fibrillin gene expression in leaves. Analysis of protein subfractions from plants subjected to drought or high light showed that both stresses resulted in fibrillin association with thylakoids. Whereas no growth difference between wild-type (WT) and transgenic plants was noticed under low light conditions, transgenics exhibit a longer main stem, enhanced development of lateral stems and accelerated floral development under higher light intensities. These data suggest that fibrillin-related proteins fulfil an important function in plant development in relation to environmental constraints.