Interpretations on chloroplast reproduction derived from correlations between cells and chloroplasts

Planta. 1971 Mar;97(1):1-15. doi: 10.1007/BF00388401.


The size ranges of chloroplasts in living mesophyll cells of Spinacia oleracea, Allium cepa, Beta vulgaris (Swiss chard and red beet) and Nicotiana glutinosa are extremely wide, e.g., ranging from about 6 µ(2) to 103 µ(2) in face area for spinach. Moreover, the size distributions are positively skewed. We interpret the size range and skewed size distributions primarily to reflect an enormous growth of the bulk of the chloroplasts from small, equal-sized chloroplasts produced by fission of a small sub-population of constricted mature chloroplasts. While actual fission has never been observed, a slow division rate of the constricted chloroplasts in N. glutinosa can account for the increase in chloroplast numbers per cell during leaf development and for the presence of small, non-constricted chloroplasts after the small chloroplasts which developed during the initial meristem activity have enlarged. Chloroplast numbers and total amount of chloroplast material per cell face were positively correlated with mesophyll-cell face size. However, the fraction of the cell face occupied with chloroplasts was essentially constant and independent of cell size and cell age while being markedly different for different species of plants. There appear to be some family characteristics in that closely related species have similar size-distributions and ranges of chloroplast sizes. The observations are discussed with respect to the ontogeny of chloroplasts in higher plants.