Molecular biology of chloroplast biogenesis: gene expression, protein import and intraorganellar sorting

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2001 Mar;58(3):420-33. doi: 10.1007/PL00000867.


The chloroplast is the hallmark organelle of plants. It performs photosynthesis and is therefore required for photoautotrophic plant growth. The chloroplast is the most prominent member of a family of related organelles termed plastids which are ubiquitous in plant cells. Biogenesis of the chloroplast from undifferentiated proplastids is induced by light. The generally accepted endosymbiont hypothesis states that chloroplasts have arisen from an internalized cyanobacterial ancestor. Although chloroplasts have maintained remnants of the ancestral genome (plastome), the vast majority of the genes encoding chloroplast proteins have been transferred to the nucleus. This poses two major challenges to the plant cell during chloroplast biogenesis: First, light and developmental signals must be interpreted to coordinately express genetic information contained in two distinct compartments. This is to ensure supply and stoichiometry of abundant chloroplast components. Second, developing chloroplasts must efficiently import nuclear encoded and cytosolically synthesized proteins. A subset of proteins, including such encoded by the plastome, must further be sorted to the thylakoid compartments for assembly into the photosynthetic apparatus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Chloroplast Proteins
  • Chloroplasts / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant*
  • Genes, Plant
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Intracellular Membranes / metabolism
  • Light
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Membrane Transport Proteins*
  • Molecular Biology
  • Organelles / metabolism
  • Photosynthesis / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism*
  • Signal Recognition Particle
  • Thylakoids / metabolism


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Chloroplast Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Plant Proteins
  • Signal Recognition Particle
  • Tic22 protein, Pisum sativum