Ricinosomes: an organelle for developmentally regulated programmed cell death in senescing plant tissues
Naturwissenschaften 2001 88: 49-58
Gietl C, Schmid M

This review describes aspects of programmed cell death (PCD). Present research maps the enzymes involved and explores the signal transduction pathways involved in their synthesis. A special organelle (the ricinosome) has been discovered in the senescing endosperm of germinating castor beans (Ricinus communis) that develops at the beginning of PCD and delivers large amounts of a papain-type cysteine endopeptidase (CysEP) in the final stages of cellular disintegration. Castor beans store oil and proteins in a living endosperm surrounding the cotyledons. These stores are mobilized during germination and transferred into the cotyledons. PCD is initiated after this transfer is complete. The CysEP is synthesized in the lumen of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) where it is retained by its C-terminal KDEL peptide as a rather inactive pro-enzyme. Large number of ricinosomes bud from the ER at the same time as the nuclear DNA is characteristically fragmented during PCD. The mitochondria, glyoxysomes and ribosomes are degraded in autophagic vacuoles, while the endopeptidase is activated by removal of the propeptide and the KDEL tail and enters the cytosol. The endosperm dries and detaches from the cotyledons. A homologous KDEL-tailed cysteine endopeptidase has been found in several senescing tissues; it has been localized in ricinosomes of withering day-lily petals and dying seed coats. Three genes for a KDEL-tailed cysteine endopeptidase have been identified in Arabidopsis. One is expressed in senescing ovules, the second in the vascular vessels and the third in maturing siliques. These genes open the way to exploring PCD in plants.
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