Hemin and magnesium-protoporphyrin IX induce global changes in gene expression in chlamydomonas reinhardtii

Björn Voß, Linda Meinecke, Thorsten Kurz, Salim Al-Babili, Christoph F. Beck, Wolfgang R. Hess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Retrograde signaling is a pathway of communication from mitochondria and plastids to the nucleus in the context of cell differentiation, development, and stress response. In Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, the tetrapyrroles magnesium-protoporphyrin IX and heme are only synthesized within the chloroplast, and they have been implicated in the retrograde control of nuclear gene expression in this unicellular green alga. Feeding the two tetrapyrroles to Chlamydomonas cultures was previously shown to transiently induce five nuclear genes, three of which encode the heat shock proteins HSP70A, HSP70B, and HSP70E. In contrast, controversial results exist on the possible role of magnesium-protoporphyrin IX in the repression of genes for lightharvesting proteins in higher plants, raising the question of how important this mode of regulation is. Here, we used genomewide transcriptional profiling to measure the global impact of these tetrapyrroles on gene regulation and the scope of the response. We identified almost 1,000 genes whose expression level changed transiently but significantly. Among them were only a few genes for photosynthetic proteins but several encoding enzymes of the tricarboxylic acid cycle, heme-binding proteins, stress-response proteins, as well as proteins involved in protein folding and degradation. More than 50% of the latter class of genes was also regulated by heat shock. The observed drastic fold changes at the RNA level did not correlate with similar changes in protein concentrations under the tested experimental conditions. Phylogenetic profiling revealed that genes of putative endosymbiontic origin are not overrepresented among the responding genes. This and the transient nature of changes in gene expression suggest a signaling role of both tetrapyrroles as secondary messengers for adaptive responses affecting the entire cell and not only organellar proteins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)892-905
Number of pages14
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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