In the present study we report on the identification and characterization of three novel chloroplast-targeted DnaJ-like proteins CDJ3–5, which in addition to their J-domains contain bacterial-type ferredoxin domains. In sequence databases we could identify homologues of CDJ3–5 in green algae, moss and higher plants, but not in cyanobacteria. Phylogenetic analyses allowed us to distinguish two clades containing CDJ3/4 and CDJ5 that must have diverged early in the ancestor of the ‘green lineage’ and have further diversified later on. Molecular and biochemical analysis of CDJ3 and CDJ4 from Chlamydomonas reinhardtii revealed that both proteins are weakly expressed and appear to be localized to the stroma and to thylakoid membranes respectively. The low transcript levels of the CDJ3 and CDJ4 genes declined even further in the initial phase of heat shock, but CDJ3 transcript levels strongly increased after a dark-to-light shift. Accordingly, the Arabidopsis orthologue of CDJ5 was also found to be light-inducible and to be under strong circadian control. CDJ3 and CDJ4 proteins could both be expressed in Escherichia coli and had redox-active Fe–S clusters. In vitro cross-linking studies demonstrated that CDJ3 and CDJ4 interact with chloroplast ATP-bound HSP70B (heat-shock protein 70B), presumably as dimers, and immunoprecipitation studies showed that CDJ3/4 were also in a complex with HSP70B in Chlamydomonas cell extracts. Finally, CDJ3 was found in complexes with apparent molecular masses of approx. 550–2800 kDa, which appeared to contain RNA. We speculate that the CDJ3–5 proteins might represent redox switches that act by recruiting HSP70B for the reorganization of regulatory protein complexes.

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