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Open Access Research article

The plant Apolipoprotein D ortholog protects Arabidopsis against oxidative stress

Jean-Benoit F Charron12, Francois Ouellet1, Mario Houde1 and Fathey Sarhan1*

Author Affiliations

1 Département des Sciences biologiques, Université du Québec à Montréal, Case Postale 8888, Succursale Centre-ville, Montreal, Quebec, H3C 3P8, Canada

2 Department of Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology, Yale University, 352 OML,165 Prospect St., New Haven, Connecticut, 06520-8104, USA

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BMC Plant Biology 2008, 8:86  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-8-86

Published: 31 July 2008



Lipocalins are a large and diverse family of small, mostly extracellular proteins implicated in many important functions. This family has been studied in bacteria, invertebrate and vertebrate animals but little is known about these proteins in plants. We recently reported the identification and molecular characterization of the first true lipocalins from plants, including the Apolipoprotein D ortholog AtTIL identified in the plant model Arabidopsis thaliana. This study aimed to determine its physiological role in planta.


Our results demonstrate that the AtTIL lipocalin is involved in modulating tolerance to oxidative stress. AtTIL knock-out plants are very sensitive to sudden drops in temperature and paraquat treatment, and dark-grown plants die shortly after transfer to light. These plants accumulate a high level of hydrogen peroxide and other ROS, which causes an oxidative stress that is associated with a reduction in hypocotyl growth and sensitivity to light. Complementation of the knock-out plants with the AtTIL cDNA restores the normal phenotype. On the other hand, overexpression enhances tolerance to stress caused by freezing, paraquat and light. Moreover, this overexpression delays flowering and maintains leaf greenness. Microarray analyses identified several differentially-regulated genes encoding components of oxidative stress and energy balance.


This study provides the first functional evidence that a plant lipocalin is involved in modulating tolerance to oxidative stress. These findings are in agreement with recently published data showing that overexpression of ApoD enhances tolerance to oxidative stress and increases life span in mice and Drosophila. Together, the three papers strongly support a similar function of lipocalins in these evolutionary-distant species.