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Chlorophyll breakdown in senescent leaves: demonstration of Mg-dechelatase activity


P. Matile (corresponding author)


The action of Mg-dechelatase was brought to light by incubating senescent rape cotyledons or chloroplasts under conditions which prevented the oxidative cleavage of chlorophyll-porphyrin. The accumulation of chlorophyllide and pheophorbide taking place under such conditions was considered as a measure of apparent activities of chlorophyllase and dechelatase, respectively. In excised cotyledons metal chelators such as 2,2′-dipyridyl and o-phenanthroline caused a marked accumulation of pheophorbide a, without affecting the apparent activity of chlorophyllase. Treatment of cotyledons with an inhibitor of cytoplasmic protein synthesis d-2-(4-methyl-2,6-dinitroanilino)-N-methyl-propionamide (d-MDMP) caused a reduced accumulation of pheophorbide a in the presence of dipyridyl, suggesting that the appearance and maintenance of Mg-dechelatase activity in senescent cotyledons requires continuous cytoplasmic protein synthesis. In isolated senescent chloroplasts (gerontoplasts) the cleavage of chlorophyll-porphyrin requires the supplementation with glucose-6-phosphate (Glc6P). Upon the incubation of gerontoplasts in the absence of Glc6P, a conspicuous accumulation of pheophorbide a occurred. Much smaller pools of pheophorbide a were produced when porphyrin cleavage was allowed in the presence of Glc6P. These phenomena were not observed in pre-senescent chloroplasts. In contrast to the apparent Mg-dechelatase activity, chlorophyllase activity did not change in a senescent-specific fashion. The lysis of gerontoplasts by freezing and thawing caused an enhancement of apparent chlorophyllase activity whereas the activity of Mg-dechelatase was lower than in the intact organelles. In the pre-senescent chloroplasts, lysis evoked a small apparent Mg-dechelatase activity, suggesting that in a latent form this enzyme may be present even before the onset of foliar senescence.