, Volume 249, Supplement 2, pp 147–155 | Cite as

The relevance of compartmentation for cysteine synthesis in phototrophic organisms

  • Hannah Birke
  • Stefanie J. Müller
  • Michael Rother
  • Andreas D. Zimmer
  • Sebastian N. W. Hoernstein
  • Dirk Wesenberg
  • Markus Wirtz
  • Gerd-Joachim Krauss
  • Ralf Reski
  • Rüdiger HellEmail author
Review Article


In the vascular plant Arabidopsis thaliana, synthesis of cysteine and its precursors O-acetylserine and sulfide is distributed between the cytosol, chloroplasts, and mitochondria. This compartmentation contributes to regulation of cysteine synthesis. In contrast to Arabidopsis, cysteine synthesis is exclusively restricted to chloroplasts in the unicellular green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Thus, the question arises, whether specification of compartmentation was driven by multicellularity and specified organs and tissues. The moss Physcomitrella patens colonizes land but is still characterized by a simple morphology compared to vascular plants. It was therefore used as model organism to study evolution of compartmented cysteine synthesis. The presence of O-acetylserine(thiol)lyase (OAS-TL) proteins, which catalyze the final step of cysteine synthesis, in different compartments was applied as criterion. Purification and characterization of native OAS-TL proteins demonstrated the presence of five OAS-TL protein species encoded by two genes in Physcomitrella. At least one of the gene products is dual targeted to plastids and cytosol, as shown by combination of GFP fusion localization studies, purification of chloroplasts, and identification of N termini from native proteins. The bulk of OAS-TL protein is targeted to plastids, whereas there is no evidence for a mitochondrial OAS-TL isoform and only a minor part of OAS-TL protein is localized in the cytosol. This demonstrates that subcellular diversification of cysteine synthesis is already initialized in Physcomitrella but appears to gain relevance later during evolution of vascular plants.


Physcomitrella patens Cysteine synthesis Subcellular compartmentation Moss O-acetylserine(thiol)lyase Acetylation 





APS reductase


Adenosine 5′phosphosulfate


Assimilatory sulfate reduction pathway


Adenosine triphosphate


ATP sulfurylase


Confocal laser scanning microscopy


Cysteine synthase complex


Green fluorescence protein


Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry/mass spectrometry


Messenger ribonucleic acid






Polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis


SAT-affinity purification


Serine acetyltransferase


Sodium dodecyl sulfate


Sulfite reductase


Sulfate transporter



H.B. is affiliated with the graduate program Evolutionary Networks at Different Scales (ENDS) and funded by the Landesgraduiertenförderung Baden-Württemberg and Schmeil Stiftung Heidelberg. S.J.M. is funded by the Spemann Graduate School for Biology and Medicine (SGBM), established within the Excellence Initiative of the German federal and state governments (GSC-4). The authors gratefully acknowledge financial support by the German Research Council (DFG) via research group FOR383 “Sulfur metabolism in plants: junction of basic metabolic pathways and molecular mechanisms of stress resistance” and grant He1848/13-1.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

709_2012_411_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (584 kb)
Supplemental Fig. 1 Alignment of Arabidopsis and Physcomitrella OAS-TL-like proteins. Amino acid sequences of A. thaliana OAS-TLs and P. patens OAS-TL-like proteins were obtained from the Arabidopsis Information Resource ( and the P. patens resource (, respectively. Alignment was done using the AlignX software (component of Vector NTI Suite 9.0.0). Amino acid residues known to be important for enzymatic activity are marked with boxes, the β8A/β9A loop is marked with a dotted box. (PDF 584 kb)
709_2012_411_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (74 kb)
Supplemental Fig. 2 Genomic DNA sequence of the 5′ end of PpOAS-TL 1 (Pp1s17_59V2.1, a) and PpOAS-TL 2 (Pp1s71_187V2.1, b). Sequences are shown from position −7 of the first potential in frame start codon ATG. All potential start codons are marked in bold and underlined and the respective methionine amino acid residue (Met) is indicated. Nucleotides at position −3 and +4 are considered to be most critical for the strength of translation initiation sites and are highlighted in grey if they are consistent with either the Kozak consensus sequence ((GCC)GCC(A/G)CCATGG) or the context sequence of translation initiation codons in lower plants according to Joshi et al. (C(A/C)A(A/C)AATGGC(C/G)) (Kozak 1987; Joshi et al. 1997). (PDF 74 kb)
709_2012_411_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (138 kb)
Supplemental Fig. 3 LC-MS/MS spectra of Nα-terminally acetylated peptides. Fragment tables are given in Supplemental Table 1. (PDF 137 kb)
709_2012_411_MOESM4_ESM.pdf (625 kb)
Supplemental Fig. 4 Alignment of Arabidopsis and Physcomitrella SAT-like proteins. Amino acid sequences of A. thaliana OAS-TLs and P. patens OAS-TL-like proteins were obtained from the Arabidopsis Information Resource ( and the P. patens resource (, respectively. Alignment was done using the AlignX software (component of Vector NTI Suite 9.0.0). Amino acid residues known to be important for enzymatic activity are marked with boxes, the flexible C-terminal tail involved in SAT/OAS-TL interaction is marked with a dotted box. (PDF 625 kb)
709_2012_411_MOESM5_ESM.pdf (172 kb)
Supplemental Table 1 a Fragment table for 34-ASLESAMAGLQLK (Phypa116788). b Fragment table for 67-AVSTEKELELNIADDVTQLIGK (Phypa116788). c Fragment table for 68-AVSVEKELEMNIADDVTQLIGK (Phypa164579). (PDF 172 kb)
709_2012_411_MOESM6_ESM.pdf (14 kb)
Supplemental Table 2 Target signal prediction for Met1-PpOAS-TL 1 and Met1-PpOAS-TL 2 using different prediction programs listed in the ARAMEMNON plant membrane protein database ( Target signal length (number of amino acid residues), as predicted by TargetP_v1.1, is given in brackets. (PDF 14 kb)
709_2012_411_MOESM7_ESM.pdf (63 kb)
Supplemental Table 3 Primers for amplification of PpOAS-TL 1 and PpOAS-TL 2 for cloning into the vector backbone mAV4. (PDF 62 kb)
709_2012_411_MOESM8_ESM.pdf (18 kb)
Supplemental Table 4 Target signal prediction for putative PpSATs using different prediction programs listed in the ARAMEMNON plant membrane protein database ( (PDF 17 kb)
709_2012_411_MOESM9_ESM.pdf (8 kb)
Supplemental Text 1 Mass spectrometry (PDF 8 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hannah Birke
    • 1
    • 2
  • Stefanie J. Müller
    • 3
  • Michael Rother
    • 6
  • Andreas D. Zimmer
    • 3
  • Sebastian N. W. Hoernstein
    • 3
  • Dirk Wesenberg
    • 6
  • Markus Wirtz
    • 1
  • Gerd-Joachim Krauss
    • 6
  • Ralf Reski
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Rüdiger Hell
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Centre for Organismal Studies Heidelberg, Department Plant Molecular BiologyUniversity of HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany
  2. 2.The Hartmut Hoffmann-Berling International Graduate School of Molecular and Cellular BiologyHeidelberg UniversityHeidelbergGermany
  3. 3.Plant Biotechnology, Faculty of BiologyUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  4. 4.FRIAS-Freiburg Institute for Advanced StudiesUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  5. 5.BIOSS-Centre for Biological Signalling StudiesUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  6. 6.Institute of Biochemistry and Biotechnology, Division of Ecological and Plant BiochemistryUniversity of Halle-WittenbergHalle (Saale)Germany

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