Chloroplasts are important sensors of environment change, fulfilling key roles in the regulation of plant growth and development in relation to environmental cues. Photosynthesis produces a repertoire of reductive and oxidative (redox) signals that provide information to the nucleus facilitating appropriate acclimation to a changing light environment. Redox signals are also recognized by the cellular innate immune system allowing activation of non-specific, stress-responsive pathways that underpin cross tolerance to biotic-abiotic stresses. While these pathways have been intensively studied in recent years, little is known about the different components that mediate chloroplast-to-nucleus signalling and facilitate cross tolerance phenomena. Here, we consider the properties of the WHIRLY family of proteins and the REDOX-RESPONSIVE TRANSCRIPTION FACTOR 1 (RRTF1) in relation to chloroplast redox signals that facilitate the synergistic co-activation of gene expression pathways and confer cross tolerance to abiotic and biotic stresses. We propose a new hypothesis for the role of WHIRLY1 as a redox sensor in chloroplast-to-nucleus retrograde signalling leading to cross tolerance, including acclimation and immunity responses. By virtue of its association with chloroplast nucleoids and with nuclear DNA, WHIRLY1 is an attractive candidate coordinator of the expression of photosynthetic genes in the nucleus and chloroplasts. We propose that the redox state of the photosynthetic electron transport chain triggers the movement of WHIRLY1 from the chloroplasts to the nucleus, and draw parallels with the regulation of NONEXPRESSOR OF PATHOGENESIS-RELATED GENES 1 (NPR1).
Keywords: NONEXPRESSOR OF PATHOGENESIS-RELATED GENES 1; REDOX-RESPONSIVE TRANSCRIPTION FACTOR 1; WHIRLY proteins; cross tolerance; innate immune response; redox regulation.