Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology

Major Professor

Barry D. Bruce

Committee Members

Dr. Beth C. Mullin, Dr. Brad M. Binder


The majority of chloroplast proteins are nuclear-encoded and post-translationally imported into the chloroplast. These newly imported proteins are translocated from the cytosolic compartment to the stroma by the Translocons of the Outer/Inner membranes of Chloroplast (TOC/TIC). In order to understand protein transport across the chloroplast outer membrane, it is crucial to investigate the structure and function of these complexes. The TOC complex is composed of the beta-barrel channel protein Toc75 and the GTPase receptors Toc34 and Toc159.

Toc75 is a member of the OMP85 (Outer Member Protein, 85 kDa) superfamily. Other proteins of the OMP85 superfamily also exist in Gram-negative bacteria and mitochondria. The members of this family contain a C-terminal transmembrane beta-barrel and a soluble N-terminus with a varying numbers of POTRA (POlypeptide TRansport Associated) domains. The recent crystal structures of the POTRA domains of Gram-negative bacteria reveal that these domains are localized in the periplasmic side. This thesis identifies the orientation of the POTRA domains as being localized in the cytosol and provides initial evidence for their involvement in the protein import.

Three POTRA domains of psToc75 were identified, purified in E. coli and characterized by MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry and circular dichroism. Using variety of immunofluorescence methods, such as flow cytometry and LSCM, the topology of the POTRA domains was investigated. Chloroplast agglutination assays were used to assess the location of immuno-reactive fragments of the POTRA domains, which supported the results from the flow cytometry and LSCM. Finally, thermolysin was used to probe the surface of the isolated intact chloroplasts. Proteolytic digestion along with the data obtained from flow cytometry, LSCM and agglutination assays suggested the orientation of the N-terminal POTRA domains facing the cytosol, followed by a C-terminal beta-barrel domain. The import competence of individual POTRA domains was determined by in vitro chloroplast import and binding competition assays. POTRA1 inhibited the binding of the precursor of the small subunit of ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase to intact chloroplasts, while POTRA3 inhibited the import of radiolabeled precursors into isolated chloroplasts; however, in both assays, the inhibition of precursor binding and import was to a lesser extent than non-labeled prSSU.

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