Background: Chloroplast division in plant cells occurs by binary fission, yielding two daughter plastids of equal size. Previously, we reported that two Arabidopsis homologues of FtsZ, a bacterial protein that forms a cytokinetic ring during cell division, are essential for plastid division in plants, and may be involved in the formation of plastid-dividing rings on both the stromal and cytosolic surfaces of the chloroplast envelope membranes. In bacteria, positioning of the FtsZ ring at the center of the cell is mediated in part by the protein MinD. Here, we identified AtMinD1, an Arabidopsis homologue of MinD, and investigated whether positioning of the plastid-division apparatus at the plastid midpoint might involve a mechanism similar to that in bacteria.
Results: Sequence analysis and in vitro chloroplast import experiments indicated that AtMinD1 contains a transit peptide that targets it to the chloroplast. Transgenic Arabidopsis plants with reduced AtMinD1 expression exhibited variability in chloroplast size and number and asymmetrically constricted chloroplasts, strongly suggesting that the plastid-division machinery is misplaced. Overexpression of AtMinD1 inhibited chloroplast division. These phenotypes resemble those of bacterial mutants with altered minD expression.
Conclusions: Placement of the plastid-division machinery at the organelle midpoint requires a plastid-targeted form of MinD. The results are consistent with a model whereby assembly of the division apparatus is initiated inside the chloroplast by the plastidic form of FtsZ, and suggest that positioning of the cytosolic components of the apparatus is specified by the position of the plastidic components.