Journal Article

What stay‐green mutants tell us about nitrogen remobilization in leaf senescence

Howard Thomas, Helen Ougham, Peter Canter and Iain Donnison

in Journal of Experimental Botany

Volume 53, issue 370, pages 801-808
Published in print April 2002 | ISSN: 0022-0957
Published online April 2002 | e-ISSN: 1460-2431 | DOI:
What stay‐green mutants tell us about nitrogen remobilization in leaf senescence

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Leaf senescence has an important role in the plant's nitrogen economy. Chlorophyll catabolism is a visible symptom of protein mobilization. Genetic and environmental factors that interfere with yellowing tend to modify protein degradation as well. The chlorophyll–protein relationship is much closer for membrane proteins than it is for soluble or total leaf proteins. In stay‐greens, genotypes with a specific defect in the chlorophyll catabolism pathway, soluble protein degradation during senescence may be close to normal, but light‐harvesting and reaction centre thylakoid membrane proteins are much more stable. Genes for the chlorophyll catabolism pathway and its control are important in the regulation of protein mobilization. Genes for three steps in the pathway are reported to have been isolated. The gene responsible for the stay‐green phenotype in grasses and legumes has not yet been cloned but a fair amount is known about it. Pigment metabolism in senescing leaves of the Festuca–Lolium stay‐green mutant is clearly disturbed and is consistent with a blockage at the ring‐opening (PaO) step in chlorophyll breakdown. PaO is de novo synthesized in senescence and thought to be the key enzyme in the chlorophyll a catabolic pathway. The stay‐green mutation is likely to be located in the PaO gene, or a specific regulator of it. These genes may well be in the various senescence‐enhanced cDNA collections that have been generated, but functional handles on them are currently lacking. When the stay‐green locus from Festuca pratensis was introgressed into Lolium temulentum, a gene encoding F. pratensis UDPG‐pyrophosphorylase was shown to have been transferred on the same chromosome segment. A strategy is described for cloning the stay‐green gene, based on subtractive PCR‐based analyses of intergeneric introgressions and map‐based cloning.

Keywords: Alien introgression; cDNA; chlorophyll catabolism; Festuca; Lolium; species‐specific polymorphism; UDP‐glucose pyrophosphorylase.

Journal Article.  3649 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry

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