Plastid division: its origins and evolution

Int Rev Cytol. 2003;222:63-98. doi: 10.1016/s0074-7696(02)22012-4.


Photosynthetic eukaryotes have evolved plastid division mechanisms since acquisition of plastids through endosymbiosis. The emerging evolutionary origin of the plastid division mechanism is remarkably complex. The constituents of the division apparatus of plastids may have complex origins. The one constituent is the plastid FtsZ ring taken over from the cyanobacteria-like ancestral endosymbionts. The second is the doublet of concentric plastid dividing rings (or triplet in red algae), possibly acquired by ancestral host eukaryotes following the primary endosymbiotic event. Placement of the division apparatus at the correct division site may involve a system analogous to the bacterial Min system. Plastid nucleoid partitioning may be mediated by binding to envelope or thylakoid membranes. Multiple copies of plastid DNA and symmetrical distribution of the nucleoids in the plastids may permit faithful transmission to daughter plastids via equal binary plastid divisions. Cyanelles retain peptidoglycan wall and cyanelle division occurs through septum formation such as bacterial cell division. Cyanelle division involves the cyanelle ring analogous to the inner stromal plastid-dividing (PD) ring. According to the prevailing hypothesis that primary endosymbiosis occurred only once, cyanelle division may represent an intermediate stage between cyanobacterial division and the well-known plastid division among extant plants. With the secondary plastids, which are surrounded by three or four membranes, the PD ring also participates in division of the inner two "true" plastid envelope membranes, and the third and the outermost membranes divide by unknown mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Cell Division
  • Cyanobacteria / genetics
  • Cyanobacteria / physiology
  • Eukaryota / genetics
  • Eukaryota / metabolism
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Intracellular Membranes / physiology
  • Plant Proteins
  • Plastids / genetics*
  • Plastids / metabolism
  • Symbiosis


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • FTSZ protein, Arabidopsis
  • Plant Proteins