Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved system that degrades intracellular components including proteins and organelles, and is important in the adaptive response to starvation in various eukaryotic organisms. Plant chloroplasts convert light energy into chemical energy and assimilate atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) for carbohydrate production through photosynthesis reactions. We previously described an autophagy process for chloroplast degradation, during which a portion of chloroplasts are mobilized into the vacuole via autophagic vesicles termed Rubisco-containing bodies. Our recent study demonstrated that the activation of autophagy in photoassimilate-limited leaves is required for the production of free amino acids (AAs) as an alternative energy source. The catabolism of free branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) is particularly important for survival under starvation conditions. These recent findings suggest an additional role for chloroplasts as a reservoir of AA when photosynthetic energy production is limited.
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