In chloroplasts, the control of mRNA stability is of critical importance for proper regulation of gene expression. The Chlamydomonas reinhardtii strain Δ26pAtE is engineered such that the atpB mRNA terminates with an mRNA destabilizing polyadenylate tract, resulting in this strain being unable to conduct photosynthesis. A collection of photosynthetic reversants was obtained from Δ26pAtE, and gel blot hybridizations revealed RNA processing alterations in the majority of these suppressor of polyadenylation (spa) strains, resulting in a failure to expose the atpB mRNA 3′ poly(A) tail. Two exceptions were spa19 and spa23, which maintained unusual heteroplasmic chloroplast genomes. One genome type, termed PS+, conferred photosynthetic competence by contributing to the stability of atpB mRNA; the other, termed PS-, was required for viability but could not produce stable atpB transcripts. Based on strand-specific RT-PCR, S1 nuclease protection, and RNA gel blots, evidence was obtained that the PS+ genome stabilizes atpB mRNA by generating an atpB antisense transcript, which attenuates the degradation of the polyadenylated form. The accumulation of double-stranded RNA was confirmed by insensitivity of atpB mRNA from PS+ genome-containing cells to S1 nuclease digestion. To obtain additional evidence for antisense RNA function in chloroplasts, we used strain Δ26, in which atpB mRNA is unstable because of the lack of a 3′ stem-loop structure. In this context, when a 121-nucleotide segment of atpB antisense RNA was expressed from an ectopic site, an elevated accumulation of atpB mRNA resulted. Finally, when spa19 was placed in a genetic background in which expression of the chloroplast exoribonuclease polynucleotide phosphorylase was diminished, the PS+ genome and the antisense transcript were no longer required for photosynthesis. Taken together, our results suggest that antisense RNA in chloroplasts can protect otherwise unstable transcripts from 3′→5′ exonuclease activity, a phenomenon that may occur naturally in the symmetrically transcribed and densely packed chloroplast genome.