The dynamin-like protein Fzl promotes thylakoid fusion and resistance to light stress in <i>Chlamydomonas reinhardtii</i>

by Justin Findinier, Cédric Delevoye, Mickael M. Cohen

Large GTPases of the Dynamin Related Proteins (DRP) family shape lipid bilayers through membrane fission or fusion processes. Despite the highly organized photosynthetic membranes of thylakoids, a single DRP is known to be targeted inside the chloroplast. Fzl from the land plant Arabidopsis thaliana is inserted in the inner envelope and thylakoid membranes to regulate their morphology. Fzl may promote the fusion of thylakoids but this remains to be proven. Moreover, the physiological requirement for fusing thylakoids is currently unknown. Here, we find that the unicellular microalga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii encodes an Fzl ortholog (CrFzl) that is localized in the chloroplast where it is soluble. To explore its function, the CRISPR/Cas9 technology was employed to generate multiple CrFzl knock out strains. Phenotypic analyzes revealed a specific requirement of CrFzl for survival upon light stress. Consistent with this, strong irradiance lead to increased photoinhibition of photosynthesis in mutant cells. Fluorescence and electron microscopy analysis demonstrated that upon exposure to high light, CrFzl mutants show defects in chloroplast morphology but also large cytosolic vacuoles in close contact with the plastid. We further observe that strong irradiance induces an increased recruitment of the DRP to thylakoid membranes. Most importantly, we show that CrFzl is required for the fusion of thylakoids during mating. Together, our results suggest that thylakoids fusion may be necessary for resistance to light stress.

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