Arrested differentiation of proplastids into chloroplasts in variegated leaves characterized by plastid ultrastructure and nucleoid morphology

Wataru Sakamoto, Yasuyuki Uno, Quan Zhang, Eiko Miura, Yusuke Kato, Sodmergen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)


Leaf variegation is seen in many ornamental plants and is often caused by a cell-lineage type formation of white sectors lacking functional chloroplasts. A mutant showing such leaf variegation is viable and is therefore suitable for studying chloroplast development. In this study, the formation of white sectors was temporally investigated in the Arabidopsis leaf-variegated mutant var2. Green sectors were found to emerge from white sectors after the formation of the first true leaf. Transmission electron microscopic examination of plastid ultrastructures confirmed that the peripheral zone in the var2 shoot meristem contained proplastids but lacked developing chloroplasts that were normally detected in wild type. These data suggest that chloroplast development proceeds very slowly in var2 variegated leaves. A notable feature in var2 is that the plastids in white sectors contain remarkable globular vacuolated membranes and prolamellar body-like structures. Although defective plastids were hardly observed in shoot meristems, they began to accumulate during early leaf development. Consistent with these observations, large plastid nucleoids detected in white sectors by DNA-specific fluorescent dyes were characteristic of those found in proplastids and were clearly distinguished from those in chloroplasts. These results strongly imply that in white sectors, differentiation of plastids into chloroplasts is arrested at the early stage of thylakoid development. Interestingly, large plastid nucleoids were detected in variegated sectors from species other than Arabidopsis. Thus, plastids in variegated leaves appear to share a common feature and represent a novel plastid type.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2069-2083
Number of pages15
JournalPlant and Cell Physiology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2009


  • Arabidopsis thaliana
  • Chloroplast development
  • Electron microscopy
  • Leaf variegation
  • Plastid nucleoid
  • Thylakoid membrane

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology


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