Amino-terminal and hydrophobic regions of the Chlamydomonas reinhardtii plastocyanin transit peptide are required for efficient protein accumulation in vivo

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Nucleus-encoded chloroplast proteins of vascular plants are synthesized as precursors and targeted to the chloroplast by stroma-targeting domains in N-terminal transit peptides. Transit peptides in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii are considerably shorter than those in vascular plants, and their stroma-targeting domains have similarities to both mitochondrial and chloroplast targeting sequences. To examine Chlamydomonas transit peptide function in vivo, deletions were introduced into the transit peptide coding region of the petE gene, which encodes the thylakoid lumen protein plastocyanin (PC). The mutant petE genes were introduced into a plastocyanin-deficient Chlamydomonas strain, and transformants that accumulated petE mRNA were analyzed for PC accumulation. The most profound defects were observed with deletions at the N-terminus and those that extended into the hydrophobic region in the C-terminal half of the transit peptide. PC precursors were detected among pulse-labeled proteins in transformants with N-terminal deletions, suggesting that these precursors cannot be imported and are degraded in the cytosol. Intermediate PC species were observed in a transformant deleted for part of the hydrophobic region, suggesting that this protein is defective in lumen translocation and/or processing. Thus, despite its shorter length, the bipartite nature of the Chlamydomonas PC transit peptide appears similar to that of lumen-targeted proteins in vascular plants. Analysis of the synthesis, stability, and accumulation of PC species in transformants bearing deletions in the stroma-targeting domain suggests that specific regions probably have distinct roles in vivo. Abbreviations: cyt, cytochrome; ECL, enhanced chemiluminescence; LSU, large subunit; PC, plastocyanin; TP, transit peptide

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