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

  • 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
  • Non-specific activities of the major herbicide-resistance gene BAR 
    Christ, Bastien; Hochstrasser, Ramon; Guyer, Luzia; Francisco, Rita; Aubry, Sylvain; Hortensteiner, Stefan; Weng, Jing-Ke
    NATURE PLANTS, 3 (12): 937-945 DEC 2017 DOI: 10.1038/s41477-017-0061-1
  • A Role for TIC55 as a Hydroxylase of Phyllobilins, the Products of Chlorophyll Breakdown during Plant Senescence 
    Hauenstein, Mareike; Christ, Bastien; Das, Aditi; et al. 
    PLANT CELL, 28 (10): 2510-2527 OCT 2016 DOI: 10.1105/tpc.16.00630
  • A liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry platform for the analysis of phyllobilins, the major degradation products of chlorophyll in Arabidopsis thaliana 
    Christ, Bastien; Hauenstein, Mareike; Hortensteiner, Stefan 
    PLANT JOURNAL, 88 (3): 505-518 NOV 2016 DOI: 10.1111/tpj.13253
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