, Volume 237, Issue 2, pp 413-428

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

How to build functional thylakoid membranes: from plastid transcription to protein complex assembly

  • Dagmar LyskaAffiliated withEntwicklungs- und Molekularbiologie der Pflanzen, Heinrich-Heine-Universität DüsseldorfPhysical Biosciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of California Email author 
  • , Karin MeierhoffAffiliated withEntwicklungs- und Molekularbiologie der Pflanzen, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf
  • , Peter WesthoffAffiliated withEntwicklungs- und Molekularbiologie der Pflanzen, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf


Chloroplasts are the endosymbiotic descendants of cyanobacterium-like prokaryotes. Present genomes of plant and green algae chloroplasts (plastomes) contain ~100 genes mainly encoding for their transcription-/translation-machinery, subunits of the thylakoid membrane complexes (photosystems II and I, cytochrome b 6 f, ATP synthase), and the large subunit of ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase. Nevertheless, proteomic studies have identified several thousand proteins in chloroplasts indicating that the majority of the plastid proteome is not encoded by the plastome. Indeed, plastid and host cell genomes have been massively rearranged in the course of their co-evolution, mainly through gene loss, horizontal gene transfer from the cyanobacterium/chloroplast to the nucleus of the host cell, and the emergence of new nuclear genes. Besides structural components of thylakoid membrane complexes and other (enzymatic) complexes, the nucleus provides essential factors that are involved in a variety of processes inside the chloroplast, like gene expression (transcription, RNA-maturation and translation), complex assembly, and protein import. Here, we provide an overview on regulatory factors that have been described and characterized in the past years, putting emphasis on mechanisms regulating the expression and assembly of the photosynthetic thylakoid membrane complexes.


Chloroplast Complex assembly Endosymbiosis Gene expression Photosynthesis Thylakoid membrane