Chloroplast Protein Degradation: Involvement of Senescence-Associated Vacuoles

  • Maria L. Costa
  • Dana E. Martínez
  • Facundo M. Gomez
  • Cristian A. Carrión
  • Juan J. GuiametEmail author
Part of the Advances in Photosynthesis and Respiration book series (AIPH, volume 36)


Senescence, the last developmental phase in the life of a leaf, is characterized by massive degradation of chloroplast proteins and redistribution of the released amino acids and peptides to other parts of the plant. Chloroplast protein degradation plays an important role in the nitrogen economy of plants.

Loss of chloroplast proteins is associated with cessation of protein synthesis and an increase in rates of protein degradation. For some photosynthesis-associated proteins, there is clear evidence for degradation within the plastid itself. For example, chloroplastic FtsH metalloproteases and DegP serine-proteases are involved in the breakdown of the D1 protein upon photoinhibition of photosystem II, and these same proteases might degrade D1 during senescence. The involvement of chloroplast proteases in the degradation of Rubisco, the most abundant leaf protein, is less clear.

Senescence-associated vacuoles (SAVs) are a class of small, acidic, lytic vacuoles that occur in senescing leaf cells. They develop in chloroplast-containing cells (i.e., mesophyll and guard cells) and are characterized by high peptidase activity, particularly of cysteine-type proteases. SAVs seem to be different from “Rubisco Containing Bodies”, and development of SAVs does not depend on the operation of the autophagic pathway. A role for SAVs in chloroplast protein degradation can be implied from the fact that stromal proteins of the chloroplast and PSI are re-located to SAVs during senescence. In vitro, cysteine-type proteases within SAVs degrade the chloroplast proteins contained in these vacuoles. SAVs may be part of an extra-plastidial degradation pathway for chloroplast stroma and PSI proteins.


Chloroplast Protein Central Vacuole Cysteine Protease Activity Chloroplast Biogenesis Antisense Line 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Green fluorescent protein;


Apoproteins of the light-harvesting complex associated to photosystem II;


Programed cell death;


Photosystem I;


Photosystem II;


Rubisco-containing bodies;


Ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase;


Senescence associated genes;


Senescence-associated vacuoles



Work in the authors’ laboratory has been supported by Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica (PICT 11885 and PICT 0784), Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas, and Universidad Nacional de La Plata (Argentina) and the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst, Germany) – Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación Productiva (Argentina) collaborative program. MLC and DEM are researchers, and CC and FMG hold fellowships, of Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas, Argentina. JJG is a researcher of Comisión de Investigaciones Científicas de la Provincia de Buenos Aires


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria L. Costa
    • 1
  • Dana E. Martínez
    • 1
  • Facundo M. Gomez
    • 1
  • Cristian A. Carrión
    • 1
  • Juan J. Guiamet
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Instituto de Fisiología VegetalUniversidad Nacional de La Plata-CONICET, cc 327La PlataArgentina

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