The GENOMES UNCOUPLED1 protein has an ancient, highly conserved role but not in retrograde signalling

Suvi Honkanen, Ian Small

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The pentatricopeptide repeat protein GENOMES UNCOUPLED1 (GUN1) is required for chloroplast-to-nucleus signalling when plastid translation becomes inhibited during chloroplast development in Arabidopsis thaliana, but its exact molecular function remains unknown. We analysed GUN1 sequences in land plants and streptophyte algae. We tested functional conservation by complementation of the Arabidopsis gun1 mutant with GUN1 genes from the streptophyte alga Coleochate orbicularis or the liverwort Marchantia polymorpha. We also analysed the transcriptomes of M. polymorpha gun1 knockout mutant lines during chloroplast development. GUN1 evolved within the streptophyte algal ancestors of land plants and is highly conserved among land plants but missing from the Rafflesiaceae that lack chloroplast genomes. GUN1 genes from C. orbicularis and M. polymorpha suppress the cold-sensitive phenotype of the Arabidopsis gun1 mutant and restore typical retrograde responses to treatments with inhibitors of plastid translation, even though M. polymorpha responds very differently to such treatments. Our findings suggest that GUN1 is an ancient protein that evolved within the streptophyte algal ancestors of land plants before the first plants colonized land more than 470 million years ago. Its primary role is likely to be in chloroplast gene expression and its role in chloroplast retrograde signalling probably evolved more recently.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-113
Number of pages15
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022

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