Co-Translational Protein Folding and Sorting in Chloroplasts

Plants (Basel). 2020 Feb 7;9(2):214. doi: 10.3390/plants9020214.


Cells depend on the continuous renewal of their proteome composition during the cell cycle and in order to replace aberrant proteins or to react to changing environmental conditions. In higher eukaryotes, protein synthesis is achieved by up to five million ribosomes per cell. With the fast kinetics of translation, the large number of newly made proteins generates a substantial burden for protein homeostasis and requires a highly orchestrated cascade of factors promoting folding, sorting and final maturation. Several of the involved factors directly bind to translating ribosomes for the early processing of emerging nascent polypeptides and the translocation of ribosome nascent chain complexes to target membranes. In plant cells, protein synthesis also occurs in chloroplasts serving the expression of a relatively small set of 60-100 protein-coding genes. However, most of these proteins, together with nucleus-derived subunits, form central complexes majorly involved in the essential processes of photosynthetic light reaction, carbon fixation, metabolism and gene expression. Biogenesis of these heterogenic complexes adds an additional level of complexity for protein biogenesis. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge about co-translationally binding factors in chloroplasts and discuss their role in protein folding and ribosome translocation to thylakoid membranes.

Keywords: chloroplast gene expression; molecular chaperones; protein synthesis; protein targeting; translocation.

Publication types

  • Review