Chlorosomes are specialized compartments that constitute the main light harvesting system of green sulfur bacteria (GSB) and some filamentous anoxygenic phototrophs (FAP). Chlorosome biogenesis promises to be a complex process requiring the generation of a unilayer membrane and the targeting of bacteriochlorophyll, carotenoids, quinones, and proteins to the chlorosome. The biogenesis of chlorosomes as well as their presence in two distinct bacterial groups, GSB and FAP, remains enigmatic. The photosynthetic machinery and overall metabolic characteristics of these two bacterial groups are very different, and horizontal gene transfer has been proposed to explain chlorosome distribution. Chlorosomes have been considered to be unique structures that require a specific assembly machinery. We propose that no special machinery is required for chlorosome assembly. Instead, it is suggested that chlorosomes are a special form of lipid body. We present a model for chlorosome biogenesis that combines aspects of lipid body biogenesis with established chlorosome characteristics and may help explain the presence of chlorosomes in two metabolically diverse organism groups. © 2007 Federation of European Biochemical Societies.
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