Chloroplasts (chlorophyll-containing plastids) and other plastids are found in all plants and many animals. They are crucial to the survival of plants and most of the animals that harbour them. An example of a non-photosynthesizing plastid in animals is the apicoplast in the malaria-causing Plasmodium species, which is required for survival of the parasite. Many animals (such as sea slugs, sponges, reef corals, and clams) consume prey containing chloroplasts, or feed on algae. Some of these incorporate the chloroplasts from their food, or whole algal cells, into their own cells. Other species from these groups place algal cells between their own cells. Reef-building corals often lose their intracellular algae as a result of environmental changes, resulting in coral bleaching and death. The sensitivity of the chloroplast internal membranes to temperature stress is one of the reasons for coral death. Chloroplasts can also be a causal factor in the processes leading to whole-plant death, as the knockout of a gene encoding a chloroplast protein delayed the yellowing that proceeds death in tobacco plants. It is concluded that chloroplasts and other plastids are essential to individual survival in many species, including animals, and that they also play a role in triggering death in some plant and animal species. © 2009 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
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