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MES16, a member of the methylesterase protein family, specifically demethylates fluorescent chlorophyll catabolites during chlorophyll breakdown in Arabidopsis.

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2012
Author Christ Bastien, Schelbert Silvia, Aubry Sylvain, Süssenbacher Iris, Müller Thomas, Kräutler Bernhard, Hörtensteiner Stefan,
Project Chlorophyll breakdown: analysis of fruit ripening, evolution and regulation
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Plant Physiology
Volume (Issue) 158(2)
Page(s) 628 - 41
Title of proceedings Plant Physiology
DOI 10.1104/pp.111.188870

Open Access


During leaf senescence, chlorophyll (Chl) is broken down to nonfluorescent chlorophyll catabolites (NCCs). These arise from intermediary fluorescent chlorophyll catabolites (FCCs) by an acid-catalyzed isomerization inside the vacuole. The chemical structures of NCCs from Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) indicate the presence of an enzyme activity that demethylates the C13(2)-carboxymethyl group present at the isocyclic ring of Chl. Here, we identified this activity as methylesterase family member 16 (MES16; At4g16690). During senescence, mes16 leaves exhibited a strong ultraviolet-excitable fluorescence, which resulted from large amounts of different FCCs accumulating in the mutants. As confirmed by mass spectrometry, these FCCs had an intact carboxymethyl group, which slowed down their isomerization to respective NCCs. Like a homologous protein cloned from radish (Raphanus sativus) and named pheophorbidase, MES16 catalyzed the demethylation of pheophorbide, an early intermediate of Chl breakdown, in vitro, but MES16 also demethylated an FCC. To determine the in vivo substrate of MES16, we analyzed pheophorbide a oxygenase1 (pao1), which is deficient in pheophorbide catabolism and accumulates pheophorbide in the chloroplast, and a mes16pao1 double mutant. In the pao1 background, we additionally mistargeted MES16 to the chloroplast. Normally, MES16 localizes to the cytosol, as shown by analysis of a MES16-green fluorescent protein fusion. Analysis of the accumulating pigments in these lines revealed that pheophorbide is only accessible for demethylation when MES16 is targeted to the chloroplast. Together, these data demonstrate that MES16 is an integral component of Chl breakdown in Arabidopsis and specifically demethylates Chl catabolites at the level of FCCs in the cytosol.