Chlorophyll breakdown

Chlorophyll breakdown is the most obvious sign of leaf senescence, but occurs also during fruit ripening and as response to many biotic and abiotic stresses. Our studies focus on elucidating the biochemical steps of chlorophyll breakdown. This pathway is common to all higher plant species, involves at least six enzymatic steps and converts the green porphyrinic pigment chlorophyll via colored and uncolored intermediates to colorless tetrapyrroles. Our research involves biochemical characterization of the involved enzymes, analysis of chlorophyll breakdown mutants and elucidation of pathway regulation.


Recent Publications

  • Pheophorbide a May Regulate Jasmonate Signaling during Dark-Induced Senescence
    Aubry, Sylvain; Fankhauser, Niklaus; Ovinnikov, Serguei; Pruzinska, Adriana; Stirnemann, Marina; et al.
    Plant Physiology 182 (2): 776-791 DOI: 10.1104/pp.19.01115  FEB 2020
  • Cryptic chlorophyll breakdown in non-senescent green Arabidopsis thaliana leaves
    Suessenbacher, Iris; Menghini, Damian; Scherzer, Gerhard; Salinger, Kathrin; Erhart, Theresia; et al.
    Photosynthesis Research 142 (1): 69-85 DOI: 10.1007/s11120-019-00649-2  OCT 2019
  • The C-terminal cysteine-rich motif of NYE1/SGR1 is indispensable for its function in chlorophyll degradation in Arabidopsis
    Xie, Zuokun; Wu, Shengdong; Chen, Junyi; Zhu, Xiaoyu; Zhou, Xin; et al.
    Plant Molecular Biology 101(3): 257-268, doi 10.1007/s11103-019-00902-1, OCT 2019
  • Subcellular localization of chlorophyllase2 reveals it is not involved in chlorophyll degradation during senescence in Arabidopsis thaliana
    Hu, Xueyun; Jia, Ting; Hoertensteiner, Stefan; Tanaka, Ayumi; Tanaka, Ryouichi
    Plant Science,  DOI: 10.1016/j.plantsci.2019.110314
  • Chlorophyll breakdown-Regulation, biochemistry and phyllobilins as its products
    Hortensteiner, Stefan; Hauenstein, Mareike; Kraeutler, Bernhard
    Metabolism, Structure And Function Of Plant Tetrapyrroles: Introduction, Microbial And Eukaryotic Chlorophyll Synthesis And Catabolism,  DOI: 10.1016/bs.abr.2019.03.004
  • Salinity in Autumn-Winter Season and Fruit Quality of Tomato Landraces
    Moles, TM; Francisco, RD; Mariotti, L; Pompeiano, A; Lupini, A; Incrocci, L; Carmassi, G; Scartazza, A; Pistelli, L; Guglielminetti, L; Pardossi, A; Sunseri, F; Hortensteiner, S; Santelia, D
    FRONTIERS IN PLANT SCIENCE, 10 10.3389/fpls.2019.01078 SEP 24 2019
  • Mutations in the Arabidopsis ROL17/isopropylmalate synthase 1 locus alter amino acid content, modify the TOR network, and suppress the root hair cell development mutant lrx1
    Schaufelberger, M; Galbier, F; Herger, A; Francisco, RD; Roffler, S; Clement, G; Diet, A; Hortensteiner, S; Wicker, T; Ringli, C
    JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL BOTANY, 70 (8):2313-2323; SI 10.1093/jxb/ery463 APR 1 2019
  • Intraorganellar Enzyme Partitioning: A Novel Layer of Chlorophyll Biosynthesis Regulation
    Hortensteiner, Stefan
    PLANT AND CELL PHYSIOLOGY, 59 (11):2167-2168; 10.1093/pcp/pcy204  NOV 2018
  • The wheat ABC transporter Lr34 modifies the lipid environment at the plasma membrane
    Deppe, JP; Rabbat, R; Hortensteiner, S; Keller, B; Martinoia, E; Lopez-Marques, RL
    JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY, 293 (48):18667-18679; 10.1074/jbc.RA118.002532 NOV 30 2018
  • Characterization of the pheophorbide a oxygenase/phyllobilin pathway of chlorophyll breakdown in grasses
    Das, A; Christ, B; Hortensteiner, S
    PLANTA, 248 (4):875-892; 10.1007/s00425-018-2946-2 OCT 2018
  • Plastidial NAD-Dependent Malate Dehydrogenase: A Moonlighting Protein Involved in Early Chloroplast Development through Its Interaction with an FtsH12-FtsHi Protease Complex
    Schreier, Tina B.; Clery, Antoine; Schlaefli, Michael; Galbier, Florian; Stadler, Martha; Demarsy, E; Albertini, D; Maier, BA; Kessler, F; Hortensteiner, S; Zeeman, SC; Kotting, O
    PLANT CELL 30(8): 1745-1769  10.1105/tpc.18.00121 AUG 2018
  • The biochemistry and molecular biology of chlorophyll breakdown 
    Kuai, Benke; Chen, Junyi; Hortensteiner, Stefan 
    JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL BOTANY, 69 (4): 751-767 FEB 6 2018 DOI: 10.1093/jxb/erx322
  • Catalytic and structural properties of pheophytinase, the phytol esterase involved in chlorophyll breakdown 
    Guyer, Luzia; Salinger, Kathrin; Krugel, Undine; et al. 
    JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL BOTANY, 69 (4): 879-889 FEB 6 2018 DOI: 10.1093/jxb/erx326

08/12/1963 – 05/12/2020

We miss you Stefan.

Stefan Hörtensteiner

Prof. Dr. Stefan Hörtensteiner
University of Zurich
Department of Plant and Microbial Biology
8008 Zurich

Tel: +41 (0)44 634 82 82

Research topics

  • Chlorophyll breakdown
  • Leaf senescence
  • Fruit ripening
  • Chlorophyll catabolites


  • Chloroplast metabolism
  • Detoxification processes in plants
  • Plant cell death
  • Stress response in plants