Hirakawa Y, Burki F, Keeling PJ
Eukaryotic Cell 11 (3) 324-333 [2012-03-00; online 2012-01-20]
Most plastid proteins are encoded by their nuclear genomes and need to be targeted across multiple envelope membranes. In vascular plants, the translocons at the outer and inner envelope membranes of chloroplasts (TOC and TIC, respectively) facilitate transport across the two plastid membranes. In contrast, several algal groups harbor more complex plastids, the so-called secondary plastids, which are surrounded by three or four membranes, but the plastid protein import machinery (in particular, how proteins cross the membrane corresponding to the secondary endosymbiont plasma membrane) remains unexplored in many of these algae. To reconstruct the putative protein import machinery of a secondary plastid, we used the chlorarachniophyte alga Bigelowiella natans, whose plastid is bounded by four membranes and still possesses a relict nucleus of a green algal endosymbiont (the nucleomorph) in the intermembrane space. We identified nine homologs of plant-like TOC/TIC components in the recently sequenced B. natans nuclear genome, adding to the two that remain in the nucleomorph genome (B. natans TOC75 [BnTOC75] and BnTIC20). All of these proteins were predicted to be localized to the plastid and might function in the inner two membranes. We also show that the homologs of a protein, Der1, that is known to mediate transport across the second membrane in the several lineages with secondary plastids of red algal origin is not associated with plastid protein targeting in B. natans. How plastid proteins cross this membrane remains a mystery, but it is clear that the protein transport machinery of chlorarachniophyte plastids differs from that of red algal secondary plastids.