Circadian clock adjustment to plant iron status depends on chloroplast and phytochrome function

EMBO J. 2013 Feb 20;32(4):511-23. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2012.330. Epub 2012 Dec 14.


Plant chloroplasts are not only the main cellular location for storage of elemental iron (Fe), but also the main site for Fe, which is incorporated into chlorophyll, haem and the photosynthetic machinery. How plants measure internal Fe levels is unknown. We describe here a new Fe-dependent response, a change in the period of the circadian clock. In Arabidopsis, the period lengthens when Fe becomes limiting, and gradually shortens as external Fe levels increase. Etiolated seedlings or light-grown plants treated with plastid translation inhibitors do not respond to changes in Fe supply, pointing to developed chloroplasts as central hubs for circadian Fe sensing. Phytochrome-deficient mutants maintain a short period even under Fe deficiency, stressing the role of early light signalling in coupling the clock to Fe responses. Further mutant and pharmacological analyses suggest that known players in plastid-to-nucleus signalling do not directly participate in Fe sensing. We propose that the sensor governing circadian Fe responses defines a new retrograde pathway that involves a plastid-encoded protein that depends on phytochromes and the functional state of chloroplasts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism*
  • Cell Nucleus / genetics
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Chloroplasts / genetics
  • Chloroplasts / metabolism*
  • Circadian Clocks / physiology*
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Mutation
  • Phytochrome / genetics
  • Phytochrome / metabolism*
  • Seedlings / genetics
  • Seedlings / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Phytochrome
  • Iron