The molecular bases for the evolution of male-female sexual dimorphism are possible to study in volvocine algae because they encompass the entire range of reproductive morphologies from isogamy to oogamy. In 1978, Charlesworth suggested the model of a gamete size gene becoming linked to the sex-determining or mating type locus (MT) as a mechanism for the evolution of anisogamy. Here, we carried out the first comprehensive study of a candidate MT-linked oogamy gene, MAT3/RB, across the volvocine lineage. We found that evolution of anisogamy/oogamy predates the extremely high male-female divergence of MAT3 that characterizes the Volvox carteri lineage. These data demonstrate very little sex-linked sequence divergence of MAT3 between the two sexes in other volvocine groups, though linkage between MAT3 and the mating locus appears to be conserved. These data implicate genetic determinants other than or in addition to MAT3 in the evolution of anisogamy in volvocine algae.
Although charophycean algae form a relevant monophyly with embryophytes and hence occupy a fundamental place in the development of Streptophyta, no tools for genetic transformation in these organisms have been developed. Here we present the first stable nuclear transformation system for the unicellular Zygnematales, the Closterium peracerosum-strigosum-littorale complex (C. psl complex), which is one of the most useful organisms for experimental research on charophycean algae. When a vector, pSA106, containing the dominant selectable marker ble (phleomycin-resistant) gene and a reporter cgfp (Chlamydomonas-adapted green fluorescent protein) gene was introduced into cells via particle bombardment, a total of 19 phleomycin-resistant cells were obtained in the presence of a low concentration of phleomycin. Six isogenic strains isolated using conditioned medium showed consecutive cgfp expression and long-term stability for phleomycin resistance. DNA analyses verified single or tandem/redundant integration of ~10 copies of pSA106 into the C. psl complex genome. We also constructed an overexpression vector, pSA1102, and then integrated a CpPI gene encoding minus-specific sex pheromone into pSA1102. Ectopic overexpression of CpPI and the pheromonal function were confirmed when the vector pSA1102_CpPI was introduced into mt(+) cells. The present efficient transformation system for the C. psl complex should provide not only a basis for molecular investigation of Closterium but also an insight into important processes in early development and evolution of Streptophyta.
Zygospore formation in different strains of the Closterium peracerosum-strigosum-littorale complex was examined in this unicellular isogamous charophycean alga to shed light on gametic mating strains in this taxon, which is believed to share a close phylogenetic relationship with land plants. Zygospores typically form as a result of conjugation between mating-type plus (mt(+)) and mating-type minus (mt(-)) cells during sexual reproduction in the heterothallic strain, similar to Chlamydomonas. However, within clonal cells, zygospores are formed within homothallic strains, and the majority of these zygospores originate as a result of conjugation of two recently divided sister gametangial cells derived from one vegetative cell. In this study, we analyzed conjugation of homothallic cells in the presence of phylogenetically closely related heterothallic cells to characterize the reproductive function of homothallic sister gametangial cells. The relative ratio of non-sister zygospores to sister zygospores increased in the presence of heterothallic mt(+) cells, compared with that in the homothallic strain alone and in a coculture with mt(-) cells. Heterothallic cells were surface labeled with calcofluor white, permitting fusions with homothallic cells to be identified and confirming the formation of hybrid zygospores between the homothallic cells and heterothallic mt(+) cells. These results show that at least some of the homothallic gametangial cells possess heterothallic mt(-)-like characters. This finding supports speculation that division of one vegetative cell into two sister gametangial cells is a segregative process capable of producing complementary mating types.
Euglenophyta and Chlorarachniophyta are groups of photosynthetic eukaryotes harboring secondary plastids of distinct green algal origins. Although previous phylogenetic analyses of genes encoding Calvin cycle enzymes demonstrated the presence of genes apparently not derived from green algal endosymbionts in the nuclear genomes of Euglena gracilis (Euglenophyta) and Bigelowiella natans (Chlorarachniophyta), the origins of these "non-green" genes in "green" secondary phototrophs were unclear due to the limited taxon sampling.
Conjugation-regulating pheromones were analyzed in homothallic Closterium for the first time. Members of the Closterium peracerosum-strigosum-littorale complex are unicellular charophycean algae in which there are two modes of zygospore formation: heterothallism and homothallism. A homothallic strain of Closterium (designation, kodama20) forms selfing zygospores via the conjugation of two sister gametangial cells derived from one vegetative cell. Conjugation-promoting and -suppressing activities, against cells at very low (1?x?10(2) cells ml(-1)) and normal (1?x?10(4) cells ml(-1)) cell density, respectively, were detected in the medium in which cells of a normal density had been cultured. Pheromone activities decreased to 20% after incubation at 60 °C for 10 ?min. The release and action of the pheromones was dependent on light. The culture medium was subjected to gel filtration, and both active substances had an apparent molecular mass of 17 ?kDa; this was similar to that previously reported for the heterothallic sex-specific pheromone protoplast-release-inducing protein (PR-IP) Inducer. cDNAs encoding the orthologs of PR-IP Inducer were isolated from the homothallic strain. Recombinant PR-IP Inducers produced by yeast cells showed conjugation-promoting activity. These results indicate that conjugation of the homothallic strain is regulated by an ortholog of a heterothallic sex-specific pheromone.
The genus Closterium, which is the closest unicellular relative to land plants, is the best-characterized charophycean green alga with respect to the process of sexual reproduction. In two representative heterothallic species, the steps and methods of intercellular communication were fully described. Glycoproteinaceous sex pheromones involved in the progress of these processes were physiologically and biochemically characterized and the corresponding genes were cloned. These pheromones function in most steps of sexual reproduction. For elucidating the mechanisms of sexual reproduction in detail, molecular tools such as expressed sequence tag, microarray analysis, and genetic transformation systems have been established, and whole genome analyses are ongoing. Finally, sexual reproductive isolation among mating groups was characterized, and the mechanism involved in this isolation was considered with respect to sex pheromones. In homothallic Closterium, the presence of a pheromone orthologous to the heterothallic type and possible sexual differentiation were also described, through the combination of closely related heterothallic cells.
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