Enhanced plant tolerance to iron starvation by functional substitution of chloroplast ferredoxin with a bacterial flavodoxin

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Jul 3;104(27):11495-500. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0704553104. Epub 2007 Jun 25.


Iron limitation affects one-third of the cultivable land on Earth and represents a major concern for agriculture. It causes decline of many photosynthetic components, including the Fe-S protein ferredoxin (Fd), involved in essential oxidoreductive pathways of chloroplasts. In cyanobacteria and some algae, Fd down-regulation under Fe deficit is compensated by induction of an isofunctional electron carrier, flavodoxin (Fld), a flavin mononucleotide-containing protein not found in plants. Transgenic tobacco lines expressing a cyanobacterial Fld in chloroplasts were able to grow in Fe-deficient media that severely compromised survival of WT plants. Fld expression did not improve Fe uptake or mobilization, and stressed transformants elicited a normal deficit response, including induction of ferric-chelate reductase and metal transporters. However, the presence of Fld did prevent decrease of several photosynthetic proteins (but not Fd) and partially protected photosynthesis from inactivation. It also preserved the activation state of enzymes depending on the Fd-thioredoxin pathway, which correlated with higher levels of intermediates of carbohydrate metabolism and the Calvin cycle, as well as increased contents of sucrose, glutamate, and other amino acids. These metabolic routes depend, directly or indirectly, on the provision of reduced Fd. The results indicate that Fld could compensate Fd decline during episodes of Fe deficiency by productively interacting with Fd-dependent pathways of the host, providing fresh genetic resources for the design of plants able to survive in Fe-poor lands.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anabaena / genetics
  • Anabaena / physiology
  • Chloroplasts / genetics
  • Chloroplasts / physiology*
  • Ferredoxins / physiology*
  • Flavodoxin / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Iron Deficiencies*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified
  • Tobacco / genetics*
  • Tobacco / physiology


  • Ferredoxins
  • Flavodoxin