Plastids possess their own genome and a specific machinery to decode this genetic information. In higher plants, the expression of plastid genes is coregulated with appropriate nuclear genes in a developmental and tissue-specific way indicative of an integrated compartmentalised genetic system (Herrmann 1997). Regulation occurs at various levels including transcription and transcript processing, translational and posttranslational stages (for review see Herrmann et al. 1992; Mullet 1993; Sugita and Sugiura 1996; Danon 1997; Herrmann 1997). Substantial evidence suggests that various mechanisms involved in plastid gene expression have developed not only quantitatively, but also qualitatively during the evolution from the endosymbiotic cell association to the integrated genetic system of the plant cell since they have not been found in their evolutionary ancestors. In this communication, we outline the complexity of transcriptional and posttranscriptional regulation of plastid gene expression in higher plants, using the expression of the ndhH operon of spinach as an example.
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