Most assimilated nutrients in the leaves of land plants are stored in chloroplasts as photosynthetic proteins, where they mediate CO2
assimilation during growth. During senescence or under suboptimal conditions, chloroplast proteins are degraded, and the amino acids released during this process are used to produce young tissues, seeds, or respiratory energy. Protein degradation machineries contribute to the quality control of chloroplasts by removing damaged proteins caused by excess energy from sunlight. Whereas previous studies revealed that chloroplasts contain several types of intraplastidic proteases that likely derived from an endosymbiosed prokaryotic ancestor of chloroplasts, recent reports have demonstrated that multiple extraplastidic pathways also contribute to chloroplast protein turnover in response to specific cues. One such pathway is autophagy, an evolutionarily conserved process that leads to the vacuolar or lysosomal degradation of cytoplasmic components in eukaryotic cells. Here, we describe and contrast the extraplastidic pathways that degrade chloroplasts. This review shows that diverse pathways participate in chloroplast turnover during sugar starvation, senescence, and oxidative stress. Elucidating the mechanisms that regulate these pathways will help decipher the relationship among the diverse pathways mediating chloroplast protein turnover.
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