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Paper of the month

Chloroplast Damage Induced by the Inhibition of Fatty Acid Synthesis Triggers Autophagy in Chlamydomonas


L.G. Heredia-Martínez, A. Andrés-Garrido, E. Martínez-Force, M.E. Pérez-Pérez, J.L. Crespo Plant Physiology 2018, Vol. 178, 1112-1129

Fatty acids are synthesized in the stroma of plant and algal chloroplasts by the fatty acid synthase complex. Newly synthesized fatty acids are then used to generate plastidial lipids that are essential for chloroplast structure and function. Here, we show that inhibition of fatty acid synthesis in the model alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii activates autophagy, a highly conserved cata- bolic process by which cells degrade intracellular material under adverse conditions to maintain cell homeostasis. Treatment of Chlamydomonas cells with cerulenin, a specific fatty acid synthase inhibitor, stimulated lipidation of the autophagosome protein ATG8 and enhanced autophagic flux. We found that inhibition of fatty acid synthesis decreased monogalactosyldiacylglycerol abundance, increased lutein content, down-regulated photosynthesis, and increased the production of reactive oxygen species. Electron microscopy revealed a high degree of thylakoid membrane stacking in cerulenin-treated cells. Moreover, global tran- scriptomic analysis of these cells showed an up-regulation of genes encoding chloroplast proteins involved in protein folding and oxidative stress and the induction of major catabolic processes, including autophagy and proteasome pathways. Thus, our results uncovered a link between lipid metabolism, chloroplast integrity, and autophagy through a mechanism that involves the activation of a chloroplast quality control system.


Luis Heredia