The integral membrane proteins of photosystem II (PS II) reaction center complexes are encoded by chloroplast genomes. These proteins are absent from thylakoids of PS II mutants of algae and vascular plants as a result of either chloroplast or nuclear gene mutations. To resolve the molecular basis for the concurrent absence of the PS II polypeptides, protein synthesis rates and mRNA levels were measured in mutants of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii that lack PS II. The analyses show that one nuclear gene product regulates the levels of transcripts from the chloroplast gene encoding the 51-kD chlorophyll a-binding polypeptide (polypeptide 5) but is not involved in the synthesis of other chloroplast mRNAs. Another nuclear product is specifically required for translation of mRNA encoding the 32-34-kD polypeptide, D1. The absence of either D1 or polypeptide 5 does not eliminate the synthesis and thylakoid insertion of two other integral membrane proteins of PS II, the chlorophyll a-binding polypeptide of 46 kD (polypeptide 6) and the 30-kD "D1-like" protein, D2. However, these two unassembled subunits cannot be properly processed and/or are degraded in the mutants even though they reside in the membrane. In addition, pulse labeling of the nuclear mutants and a chloroplast mutant that does not synthesize D1 mRNA indicates that synthesis of polypeptide 5 and D1 is coordinated at the translational level. A model is presented to explain how absence of one of the two proteins could lead to translational arrest of the other.

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