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Mechanism and significance of chlorophyll breakdown

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Review article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2014
Author Christ Bastien, Hörtensteiner Stefan,
Project Chlorophyll breakdown: analysis of fruit ripening, evolution and regulation
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Review article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Journal of Plant Growth Regulation
Volume (Issue) 33
Page(s) 4 - 20
Title of proceedings Journal of Plant Growth Regulation
DOI 10.1007/s00344-013-9392-y


Chlorophyll breakdown is the most obvious sign of leaf senescence and fruit ripening. A multi-step pathway has been elucidated in recent years that can be divided into two major parts. In the first phase that is commonly active in higher plants chlorophyll is converted via several photoreactive intermediates to a primary colorless breakdown product within the chloroplast. The second part of chlorophyll breakdown takes place in the cytosol and the vacuole. During this phase, the primary colorless intermediate is modified in largely species-specific reactions to a number of similar, yet structurally different, linear tetrapyrrolic products that finally are stored within the vacuole of senescing cells. To date, most of the biochemical reactions of the first phase of chlorophyll breakdown have been elucidated and genes been identified. By contrast, mechanisms of catabolite transport and modification during the second phase are largely unknown. This review summarizes the current knowledge on the biochemical reactions involved in chlorophyll breakdown with a special focus on the phase two reactions and the fate of by-products that are released from chlorophyll during its breakdown.