Variegated plants, much prized by gardeners for their attractively patterned leaves, can arise through the formation of defective chloroplasts in some cells as a consequence of stable, loss-of-function mutations in nuclear genes. Sometimes, variegation is accompanied by perturbed leaf development. On p. 4807, John Mundy and co-workers investigate an Arabidopsis mutant of this type - the stable, recessive variegated 3 (var3) mutant. They report that the yellow leaf areas of this mutant lack chloroplasts or contain developmentally retarded plastids and have reduced numbers of palisade cells, the elongated parenchymal cells found below the upper leaf surface. They have also isolated the VAR3 gene, which encodes a novel zinc-finger protein, and show that VAR3 interacts with NCED4, a chloroplastlocalized carotenoid dioxygenase. On the basis of these and other data, the authors propose that VAR3 is part of a protein complex that functions in a metabolic pathway required for chloroplast development and that the palisade cell defects in var3 leaves are a secondary effect owing to incomplete chloroplast development.