Stromules are stroma-filled tubules that extend from the surface of plastids and allow the transfer of proteins as large as 550 kDa between interconnected plastids. The aim of the present study was to determine if plastid DNA or plastid ribosomes are able to enter stromules, potentially permitting the transfer of genetic information between plastids. Plastid DNA and ribosomes were marked with green fluorescent protein (GFP) fusions to LacI, the lac repressor, which binds to lacO-related sequences in plastid DNA, and to plastid ribosomal proteins Rpl1 and Rps2, respectively. Fluorescence from GFP-LacI co-localised with plastid DNA in nucleoids in all tissues of transgenic tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum L.) examined and there was no indication of its presence in stromules, not even in hypocotyl epidermal cells, which contain abundant stromules. Fluorescence from Rpl1-GFP and Rps2-GFP was also observed in a punctate pattern in chloroplasts of tobacco and Arabidopsis [Arabidopsis thaliana (L.) Heynh.], and fluorescent stromules were not detected. Rpl1-GFP was shown to assemble into ribosomes and was co-localised with plastid DNA. In contrast, in hypocotyl epidermal cells of dark-grown Arabidopsis seedlings, fluorescence from Rpl1-GFP was more evenly distributed in plastids and was observed in stromules on a total of only four plastids (<0.02% of the plastids observed). These observations indicate that plastid DNA and plastid ribosomes do not routinely move into stromules in tobacco and Arabidopsis, and suggest that transfer of genetic information by this route is likely to be a very rare event, if it occurs at all.
© 2011 The Authors. The Plant Journal © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.