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Lin J, Nazarenus TJ, Frey JL, Liang X, Wilson MA, et al. (2011) A Plant DJ-1 Homolog Is Essential for Arabidopsis thaliana Chloroplast Development. PLoS ONE 6(8): e23731. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023731


Copyright 2011 Lin et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.


Protein superfamilies can exhibit considerable diversification of function among their members in various organisms. The DJ-1 superfamily is composed of proteins that are principally involved in stress response and are widely distributed in all kingdoms of life. The model flowering plant Arabidopsis thaliana contains three close homologs of animal DJ-1, all of which are tandem duplications of the DJ-1 domain. Consequently, the plant DJ-1 homologs are likely pseudo-dimeric proteins composed of a single polypeptide chain. We report that one A. thaliana DJ-1 homolog (AtDJ1C) is the first DJ-1 homolog in any organism that is required for viability. Homozygous disruption of the AtDJ1C gene results in non-viable, albino seedlings that can be complemented by expression of wild-type or epitope-tagged AtDJ1C. The plastids from these dj1c plants lack thylakoid membranes and granal stacks, indicating that AtDJ1C is required for proper chloroplast development. AtDJ1C is expressed early in leaf development when chloroplasts mature, but is downregulated in older tissue, consistent with a proposed role in plastid development. In addition to its plant-specific function, AtDJ1C is an atypical member of the DJ-1 superfamily that lacks a conserved cysteine residue that is required for the functions of most other superfamily members. The essential role for AtDJ1C in chloroplast maturation expands the known functional diversity of the DJ-1 superfamily and provides the first evidence of a role for specialized DJ-1-like proteins in eukaryotic development.