Environmental stress increases the entry of cytoplasmic organellar DNA into the nucleus in plants

Dong Wang, Andrew H Lloyd, Jeremy N. Timmis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (SciVal)


Mitochondria and chloroplasts (photosynthetic members of the plastid family of cytoplasmic organelles) in eukaryotic cells originated more than a billion years ago when an ancestor of the nucleated cell engulfed two different prokaryotes in separate sequential events. Extant cytoplasmic organellar genomes contain very few genes compared with their candidate free-living ancestors, as most have functionally relocated to the nucleus. The first step in functional relocation involves the integration of inactive DNA fragments into nuclear chromosomes, and this process continues at high frequency with attendant genetic, genomic, and evolutionary consequences. Using two different transplastomic tobacco lines, we show that DNA migration from chloroplasts to the nucleus is markedly increased by mild heat stress. In addition, we show that insertion of mitochondrial DNA fragments during the repair of induced double-strand breaks is increased by heat stress. The experiments demonstrate that the nuclear influx of organellar DNA is a potentially a source of mutation for nuclear genomes that is highly susceptible to temperature fluctuations that are well within the range experienced naturally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2444-2448
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number7
Early online date30 Jan 2012
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell Nucleus/metabolism
  • Cytoplasm/metabolism
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Plants/metabolism
  • Stress, Physiological


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