, Volume 23, Issue 7, pp 435-447
Date: 15 Sep 2004

Efficient developmental mis-targeting by the sporamin NTPP vacuolar signal to plastids in young leaves of sugarcane and Arabidopsis

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Plant vacuoles are multi-functional, developmentally varied and can occupy up to 90% of plant cells. The N-terminal propeptide (NTPP) of sweet potato sporamin and the C-terminal propeptide (CTPP) of tobacco chitinase have been developed as models to target some heterologous proteins to vacuoles but so far tested on only a few plant species, vacuole types and “payload” proteins. Most studies have focused on lytic and protein-storage vacuoles, which may differ substantially from the sugar-storage vacuoles in crops like sugarcane. Our results extend the evidence that NTPP of sporamin can direct heterologous proteins to vacuoles in diverse plant species and indicate that sugarcane sucrose-storage vacuoles (like the lytic vacuoles in other plant species) are hostile to heterologous proteins. A low level of cytosolic NTPP-GFP (green fluorescent protein) was detectable in most cell types in sugarcane and Arabidopsis, but only Arabidopsis mature leaf mesophyll cells accumulated NTPP-GFP to detectable levels in vacuoles. Unexpectedly, efficient developmental mis-trafficking of NTPP-GFP to chloroplasts was found in young leaf mesophyll cells of both species. Vacuolar targeting by tobacco chitinase CTPP was inefficient in sugarcane, leaving substantial cytoplasmic activity of rat lysosomal β-glucuronidase (GUS) [ER (endoplasmic reticulum)-RGUS-CTPP]. Sporamin NTPP is a promising targeting signal for studies of vacuolar function and for metabolic engineering. Such applications must take account of the efficient developmental mis-targeting by the signal and the instability of most introduced proteins, even in “storage vacuoles”.

Communicated by P. Lakshmanan