Plastids perform many essential functions in plant metabolism including photosynthesis, synthesis of metabolites, and stress signaling. The most prominent type in green leaves is the chloroplast which contains thylakoids, plastoglobules, and starch. As these structures are closely linked to the metabolism of chloroplasts, changes during plant growth and development and during environmental stress situations are likely to occur. The aim of this study was to characterize changes in size and ultrastructure of chloroplast on cross-sections of leaves during high light stress, Botrytis infection, and dark induced senescence by quantitative transmission electron microscopy (TEM).The size of chloroplasts on cross sections of leaves decreased significantly when plants were subject to high light (49%), Botrytis infection (58%), and senescence (71%). The number of chloroplasts on cross sections of the palisade cell layer and spongy parenchyma, respectively, decreased significantly in plants exposed to high light conditions (48% and 29%), infected with Botrytis (48% and 46%), and during senescence (78% and 80%). Thylakoids on cross-sections of chloroplasts decreased significantly in plants exposed to high light (22%), inoculated with Botrytis cinerea (36%), and senescence (51%). This correlated with a massive increase in plastoglobules on cross-sections of chloroplasts of 88%, 2,306% and 19,617%, respectively. Starch contents on cross sections of chloroplasts were completely diminished in all three stress scenarios. These results demonstrate that the decrease in the number and size of chloroplasts is a reliable stress marker in plants during abiotic and biotic stress situations which can be easily detected with a light microscope. Further, lack of starch, the occurrence of large plastoglobules and decrease in thylakoids can also be regarded as reliable stress marker in plants which can be detected by TEM.
Zechmann, B. (2019). Ultrastructure of plastids serves as reliable abiotic and biotic stress marker. PLoS ONE, 14(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0214811