Import of Soluble Proteins into Chloroplasts and Potential Regulatory Mechanisms
Chloroplasts originated from an endosymbiotic event in which a free-living cyanobacterium was engulfed by an ancestral eukaryotic host. During evolution the majority of the chloroplast genetic information was transferred to the host cell nucleus. As a consequence, proteins formerly encoded by the chloroplast genome are now translated in the cytosol and must be subsequently imported into the chloroplast. This process involves three steps: (i) cytosolic sorting procedures, (ii) binding to the designated receptor-equipped target organelle and (iii) the consecutive translocation process. During import, proteins have to overcome the two barriers of the chloroplast envelope, namely the outer envelope membrane (OEM) and the inner envelope membrane (IEM). In the majority of cases, this is facilitated by two distinct multiprotein complexes, located in the OEM and IEM, respectively, designated TOC and TIC. Plants are constantly exposed to fluctuating environmental conditions such as temperature and light and must therefore regulate protein composition within the chloroplast to ensure optimal functioning of elementary processes such as photosynthesis. In this review we will discuss the recent models of each individual import stage with regard to short-term strategies that plants might use to potentially acclimate to changes in their environmental conditions and preserve the chloroplast protein homeostasis.