Stromules: a characteristic cell-specific feature of plastid morphology

J Exp Bot. 2005 Mar;56(413):787-97. doi: 10.1093/jxb/eri088. Epub 2005 Feb 7.


Stromules (stroma-filled tubules) are highly dynamic structures extending from the surface of all plastid types examined so far, including proplastids, chloroplasts, etioplasts, leucoplasts, amyloplasts, and chromoplasts. Stromules are usually 0.35-0.85 microm in diameter and of variable length, from short beak-like projections to linear or branched structures up to 220 mum long. They are enclosed by the inner and outer plastid envelope membranes and enable the transfer of molecules as large as Rubisco (approximately 560 kDa) between interconnected plastids. Stromules occur in all cell types, but stromule morphology and the proportion of plastids with stromules vary from tissue to tissue and at different stages of plant development. In general, stromules are more abundant in tissues containing non-green plastids, and in cells containing smaller plastids. The primary function of stromules is still unresolved, although the presence of stromules markedly increases the plastid surface area, potentially increasing transport to and from the cytosol. Other functions of stromules, such as transfer of macromolecules between plastids and starch granule formation in cereal endosperm, may be restricted to particular tissues and cell types.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Gene Expression
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / analysis
  • Plant Cells
  • Plant Development
  • Plant Leaves / ultrastructure
  • Plant Roots / ultrastructure
  • Plant Stems / ultrastructure
  • Plants / ultrastructure*
  • Plastids / physiology
  • Plastids / ultrastructure*
  • Seeds / ultrastructure
  • Signal Transduction


  • Green Fluorescent Proteins