Nucleases in higher plants and their possible involvement in DNA degradation during leaf senescence

J Exp Bot. 2014 Jul;65(14):3835-43. doi: 10.1093/jxb/eru091. Epub 2014 Mar 14.


During leaf senescence, macromolecules such as proteins and lipids are known to be degraded for redistribution into upper tissues. Similarly, nucleic acids appear to undergo fragmentation or degradation during senescence, but the physiological role of nucleic acid degradation, particularly of genomic DNA degradation, remains unclear. To date, more than a dozen of plant deoxyribonucleases have been reported, whereas it remains to be verified whether any of them degrade DNA during leaf senescence. This review summarizes current knowledge related to the plant nucleases that are induced developmentally or in a tissue-specific manner and are known to degrade DNA biochemically. Of these, several endonucleases (BFN1, CAN1, and CAN2) and an exonuclease (DPD1) in Arabidopsis seem to act in leaf senescence because they were shown to be inducible at the transcript level. This review specifically examines DPD1, which is dual-targeted to chloroplasts and mitochondria. Results show that, among the exonuclease family to which DPD1 belongs, DPD1 expression is extraordinary when estimated using a microarray database. DPD1 is the only example among the nucleases in which DNA degradation has been confirmed in vivo in pollen by mutant analysis. These data imply a significant role of organelle DNA degradation during leaf senescence and implicate DPD1 as a potential target for deciphering nucleotide salvage in plants.

Keywords: Cell death; DNA degradation; chloroplasts; endonuclease; exonuclease; leaf senescence; organelle DNA..

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA Fragmentation*
  • Deoxyribonucleases / metabolism*
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Leaves / metabolism*
  • Plants / enzymology*
  • Subcellular Fractions / metabolism


  • Deoxyribonucleases