Male and female, generally defined based on differences in gamete size and motility, likely have multiple independent origins, appearing to have evolved from isogamous organisms in various eukaryotic lineages. Recent studies of the gamete fusogen GCS1/HAP2 indicate that this protein is deeply conserved across eukaryotes, and its exclusive and/or functional expression generally resides in males or in male homologues. However, little is known regarding the conserved or primitive molecular traits of males and females within eukaryotes. Here, using morphologically indistinguishable isogametes of the colonial volvocine Gonium pectorale, we demonstrated that GCS1 is differently regulated between the sexes. G. pectorale GCS1 molecules in one sex (homologous to male) are transported from the gamete cytoplasm to the protruded fusion site, whereas those of the other sex (females) are quickly degraded within the cytoplasm upon gamete activation. This molecular trait difference might be conserved across various eukaryotic lineages and may represent male and female prototypes originating from a common eukaryotic ancestor.
The evolution of oogamy from isogamy, an important biological event, can be summarized as follows: morphologically similar gametes (isogametes) differentiated into small "male" and large "female" motile gametes during anisogamy, from which immotile female gametes (eggs) evolved. The volvocine green algae represent a model lineage to study this type of sex evolution and show two types of gametic unions: conjugation between isogametes outside the parental colonies (external fertilization during isogamy) and fertilization between small motile gametes (sperm) and large gametes (eggs) inside the female colony (internal fertilization during anisogamy and oogamy). Although recent cultural studies on volvocine algae revealed morphological diversity and molecular genetic data of sexual reproduction, an intermediate type of union between these two gametic unions has not been identified.
Microalgal storage lipids are considered to be a promising source for next-generation biofuel feedstock. However, microalgal biodiesel is not yet economically feasible due to the high cost of production. One of the reasons for this is that the use of a low-cost open pond system is currently limited because of the unavoidable contamination with undesirable organisms. Extremophiles have an advantage in culturing in an open pond system because they grow in extreme environments toxic to other organisms. In this study, we isolated the acidophilic green alga Pseudochlorella sp. YKT1 from sulfuric acid mine drainage in Nagano Prefecture, Japan. The vegetative cells of YKT1 display the morphological characteristics of Trebouxiophyceae and molecular phylogenetic analyses indicated it to be most closely related to Pseudochlorella pringsheimii. The optimal pH and temperature for the growth of YKT1 are pH 3.0-5.0 and a temperature 20-25°C, respectively. Further, YKT1 is able to grow at pH 2.0 and at 32°C, which corresponds to the usual water temperature in the outdoors in summer in many countries. YKT1 accumulates a large amount of storage lipids (?30% of dry weigh) under a nitrogen-depleted condition at low-pH (pH 3.0). These results show that acidophilic green algae will be useful for industrial applications by acidic open culture systems.
The plastids of chlorarachniophytes were derived from an ancestral green alga via secondary endosymbiosis. Thus, genes from the "green" lineage via secondary endosymbiotic gene transfer (EGT) are expected in the nuclear genomes of the Chlorarachniophyta. However, several recent studies have revealed the presence of "red" genes in their nuclear genomes. To elucidate the origin of such "red" genes in chlorarachniophyte nuclear genomes, we carried out exhaustive single-gene phylogenetic analyses, including two operational taxonomic units (OTUs) that represent two divergent sister lineages of the Chlorarachniophyta, Amorphochlora amoeboformis (?=?Lotharella amoeboformis; based on RNA sequences newly determined here) and Bigelowiella natans (based on the published genome sequence). We identified 10 genes of cyanobacterial origin, phylogenetic analysis of which showed the chlorarachniophytes to branch with the red lineage (red algae and/or red algal secondary or tertiary plastid-containing eukaryotes). Of the 10 genes, 7 demonstrated robust monophyly of the two chlorarachniophyte OTUs. Thus, the common ancestor of the extant chlorarachniophytes likely experienced multiple horizontal gene transfers from the red lineage. Because 4 of the 10 genes are obviously photosynthesis- and/or plastid-related, and almost all of the eukaryotic OTUs in the 10 trees possess plastids, such red genes most likely originated directly from photosynthetic eukaryotes. This situation could be explained by a possible cryptic endosymbiosis of a red algal plastid before the secondary endosymbiosis of the green algal plastid, or a long-term feeding on a single (or multiple closely related) red algal plastid-containing eukaryote(s) after the green secondary endosymbiosis.
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.
Volvocalean green algae have among the most diverse mitochondrial and plastid DNAs (mtDNAs and ptDNAs) from the eukaryotic domain. However, nearly all of the organelle genome data from this group are restricted to unicellular species, like Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, and presently only one multicellular species, the ?4,000-celled Volvox carteri, has had its organelle DNAs sequenced. The V. carteri organelle genomes are repeat rich, and the ptDNA is the largest plastome ever sequenced. Here, we present the complete mtDNA and ptDNA of the colonial volvocalean Gonium pectorale, which is comprised of ?16 cells and occupies a phylogenetic position closer to that of V. carteri than C. reinhardtii within the volvocine line. The mtDNA and ptDNA of G. pectorale are circular-mapping AT-rich molecules with respective lengths and coding densities of 16 and 222.6 kilobases and 73 and 44%. They share some features with the organelle DNAs of V. carteri, including palindromic repeats within the plastid compartment, but show more similarities with those of C. reinhardtii, such as a compact mtDNA architecture and relatively low organelle DNA intron contents. Overall, the G. pectorale organelle genomes raise several interesting questions about the origin of linear mitochondrial chromosomes within the Volvocales and the relationship between multicellularity and organelle genome expansion.
It has been argued that for certain lineages, noncoding DNA expansion is a consequence of the increased random genetic drift associated with long-term escalations in organism size. But a lack of data has prevented the investigation of this hypothesis in most plastid-bearing protists. Here, using newly sequenced mitochondrial and plastid genomes, we explore the relationship between organelle DNA noncoding content and organism size within volvocine green algae. By looking at unicellular, colonial, and differentiated multicellular algae, we show that organelle DNA complexity scales positively with species size and cell number across the volvocine lineage. Moreover, silent-site genetic diversity data suggest that the volvocine species with the largest cell numbers and most bloated organelle genomes have the smallest effective population sizes. Together, these findings support the view that nonadaptive processes, like random genetic drift, promote the expansion of noncoding regions in organelle genomes.
Volvocine green algae represent the "evolutionary time machine" model lineage for studying multicellularity, because they encompass the whole range of evolutionary transition of multicellularity from unicellular Chlamydomonas to >500-celled Volvox. Multicellular volvocalean species including Gonium pectorale and Volvox carteri generally have several common morphological features to survive as integrated multicellular organisms such as "rotational asymmetry of cells" so that the cells become components of the individual and "cytoplasmic bridges between protoplasts in developing embryos" to maintain the species-specific form of the multicellular individual before secretion of new extracellular matrix (ECM). However, these morphological features have not been studied in the four-celled colonial volvocine species Tetrabaena socialis that is positioned in the most basal lineage within the colonial or multicellular volvocine greens. Here we established synchronous cultures of T. socialis and carried out immunofluorescence microscopic and ultrastructural observations to elucidate these two morphological attributes. Based on immunofluorescence microscopy, four cells of the mature T. socialis colony were identical in morphology but had rotational asymmetry in arrangement of microtubular rootlets and separation of basal bodies like G. pectorale and V. carteri. Ultrastructural observations clearly confirmed the presence of cytoplasmic bridges between protoplasts in developing embryos of T. socialis even after the formation of new flagella in each daughter protoplast within the parental ECM. Therefore, these two morphological attributes might have evolved in the common four-celled ancestor of the colonial volvocine algae and contributed to the further increase in cell number and complexity of the multicellular individuals of this model lineage. T. socialis is one of the simplest integrated multicellular organisms in which four identical cells constitute the individual.
Isogamous organisms lack obvious cytological differences in the gametes of the two complementary mating types. Consequently, it is difficult to ascertain which of the two mating types are homologous when comparing related but sexual isolated strains or species. The colonial volvocalean algal genus Gonium consists of such isogamous organisms with heterothallic mating types designated arbitrarily as plus or minus in addition to homothallic strains. Homologous molecular markers among lineages may provide an "objective" framework to assign heterothallic mating types.
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.
Euglenophytes are a group of photosynthetic flagellates possessing a plastid derived from a green algal endosymbiont, which was incorporated into an ancestral host cell via secondary endosymbiosis. However, the impact of endosymbiosis on the euglenophyte nuclear genome is not fully understood due to its complex nature as a hybrid of a non-photosynthetic host cell and a secondary endosymbiont.
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.
A problem has remained unresolved regarding the exceptions to the unilateral inheritance of chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) from MT+/female in Chlamydomonas and other volvocaleans demonstrated by the previous genetic analyses. For identification of the parental types of cpDNA, these studies used parents that have differences in restriction fragment length polymorphisms and exhibit partial sexual incompatibility.
Colonial volvocaleans (Chlorophyceae) are used as a standard model of multicellular evolution. However, the phylogenetic position of the colonial volvocalean family Spondylomoraceae has yet to be resolved. To examine this, the molecular phylogenies of Pyrobotrys stellata and Pyrobotrys squarrosa were analyzed using combined 18S rRNA, RUBISCO large subunit, and P700 chl a-apoprotein A2 gene sequences. In the phylogenetic trees, Pyrobotrys belonged to the clade Caudivolvoxa and was not closely related to other colonial volvocalean flagellates. The results indicate that colony formation of Spondylomoraceae independently evolved from unicellular volvocaleans. The phylogenetic position of problematic "Pascherina tetras" SAG 159-1 was also analyzed.
Horizontal gene transfer has been postulated to occur between crops to co-occurring parasitic plants, but empirical evidence has been lacking. We present evidence that an HGT event moved a nuclear monocot gene into the genome of the eudicot parasite witchweed (Striga hermonthica), which infects many grass species in Africa. Analysis of expressed sequence tags revealed that the genome of S. hermonthica contains a nuclear gene that is widely conserved among grass species but is not found in other eudicots. Phylogenetically, this gene clusters with sorghum genes, the monocot host of the parasitic weed, suggesting that nuclear genes can be captured by parasitic weeds in nature.
Although dimorphic sexes have evolved repeatedly in multicellular eukaryotes, their origins are unknown. The mating locus (MT) of the sexually dimorphic multicellular green alga Volvox carteri specifies the production of eggs and sperm and has undergone a remarkable expansion and divergence relative to MT from Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, which is a closely related unicellular species that has equal-sized gametes. Transcriptome analysis revealed a rewired gametic expression program for Volvox MT genes relative to Chlamydomonas and identified multiple gender-specific and sex-regulated transcripts. The retinoblastoma tumor suppressor homolog MAT3 is a Volvox MT gene that displays sexually regulated alternative splicing and evidence of gender-specific selection, both of which are indicative of cooption into the sexual cycle. Thus, sex-determining loci affect the evolution of both sex-related and non-sex-related genes.
Transfer RNA (tRNA) is a central genetic element in the decoding of genome information for all of Earths life forms. Nevertheless, there are a great number of missing tRNAs that have been left without examination, especially in microbial genomes. Two tRNA gene families remarkable in their structure and expression mechanism have been reported: split and permuted tRNAs. Split tRNAs in archaea are encoded on the genome as two or three fragmented genes and then processed into single tRNA molecules. Permuted tRNAs are organized with the 5 and 3 halves of the gene positioned in reverse on the genome and hitherto have been found only in one tiny red alga. Here we reveal a wide-ranging distribution of permuted tRNA genes in the genomes of photosynthetic eukaryotes. This includes in the smallest eukaryotic genome known to date, the nucleomorph genome of the chlorarachniophyte alga Bigelowiella natans. Comparison between cDNA and genomic DNA sequences of two nucleomorph-encoded tRNA(Ser) genes confirms that precursors are circularized and processed into mature tRNA molecules in vivo. In the tRNA(Ser)(AGA), adenine at the wobble position of the codon is likely modified to inosine to expand capacity of the codon recognition. We also show the presence of permuted tRNAs in the ultrasmall free-living green algae Ostreococcus and Micromonas, which are closely related to the B. natans nucleomorph. Conserved intron/leader sequence structures in the intron-containing and permuted tRNAs suggest the ancient origin of the splicing machinery in the common ancestor of eukaryotes and archaea. Meanwhile, a wide but patchy distribution of permuted tRNA genes in the photosynthetic eukaryotes implies that extant permuted tRNAs might have emerged multiple times. Taken together, our data demonstrate that permuted tRNA is an evolutionarily conserved and fundamental element in tiny eukaryotic genomes.
The new type blue light (BL) receptor aureochrome (AUREO) was recently discovered in a stramenopile alga, Vaucheria (Takahashi et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 104(49):19625-19630, 2007). AUREO has a bZIP (basic region/leucine zipper) and BL-sensing light-oxygen-voltage (LOV) domain and functions as a BL-activated transcription factor. It mediates BL-induced branching and regulates the development of the sex organ in V. frigida. Although AUREO sequences have previously been found in Fucus and some diatoms, here we report that AUREO orthologs are commonly conserved in photosynthetic stramenopiles. Five AUREO orthologs were isolated from three stramenopile genera (Fucus, Ochromonas, and Chattonella). By BLAST search, several AUREO sequences were also detected in genomes in Aureococcus anophagefferens (Pelagophyceae). However, AUREO was not found in heterotrophic stramenopiles or in closely related phyla, such as haptophytes and cryptophytes, or in green plants. Stramenopiles do not possess phototropin, the well-known BL receptor for phototropism of green plants. From comparative analysis of LOV domains, together with kinship analysis of AUREO bZIP domains, AUREO can be regarded as the BL receptor specific to phototrophic stramenopiles. The evolution of AUREO and the phylogeny of LOV domains in stramenopiles and green plants are discussed.
Eukaryotic genes with cyanobacterial ancestry in plastid-lacking protists have been regarded as important evolutionary markers implicating the presence of plastids in the early evolution of eukaryotes. Although recent genomic surveys demonstrated the presence of cyanobacterial and algal ancestry genes in the genomes of plastid-lacking protists, comparative analyses on the origin and distribution of those genes are still limited.
The phylogenetic positions of the primary photosynthetic eukaryotes, or Archaeplastida (green plants, red algae, and glaucophytes) and the secondary photosynthetic chromalveolates, Haptophyta, vary depending on the data matrices used in the previous nuclear multigene phylogenetic studies. Here, we deduced the phylogeny of three groups of Archaeplastida and Haptophyta on the basis of sequences of the multiple slowly evolving nuclear genes and reduced the gaps or missing data, especially in glaucophyte operational taxonomic units (OTUs). The present multigene phylogenetic analyses resolved that Haptophyta and two other groups of Chromalveolata, stramenopiles and Alveolata, form a monophyletic group that is sister to the green plants and that the glaucophytes and red algae are basal to the clade composed of green plants and Chromalveolata. The bootstrap values supporting these phylogenetic relationships increased with the exclusion of long-branched OTUs. The close relationship between green plants and Chromalveolata is further supported by the common replacement in two plastid-targeted genes.
For more than 140 years, pollen tube guidance in flowering plants has been thought to be mediated by chemoattractants derived from target ovules. However, there has been no convincing evidence of any particular molecule being the true attractant that actually controls the navigation of pollen tubes towards ovules. Emerging data indicate that two synergid cells on the side of the egg cell emit a diffusible, species-specific signal to attract the pollen tube at the last step of pollen tube guidance. Here we report that secreted, cysteine-rich polypeptides (CRPs) in a subgroup of defensin-like proteins are attractants derived from the synergid cells. We isolated synergid cells of Torenia fournieri, a unique plant with a protruding embryo sac, to identify transcripts encoding secreted proteins as candidate molecules for the chemoattractant(s). We found two CRPs, abundantly and predominantly expressed in the synergid cell, which are secreted to the surface of the egg apparatus. Moreover, they showed activity in vitro to attract competent pollen tubes of their own species and were named as LUREs. Injection of morpholino antisense oligomers against the LUREs impaired pollen tube attraction, supporting the finding that LUREs are the attractants derived from the synergid cells of T. fournieri.
Recent multigene phylogenetic analyses have contributed much to our understanding of eukaryotic phylogeny. However, the phylogenetic positions of various lineages within the eukaryotes have remained unresolved or in conflict between different phylogenetic studies. These phylogenetic ambiguities might have resulted from mixtures or integration from various factors including limited taxon sampling, missing data in the alignment, saturations of rapidly evolving genes, mixed analyses of short- and long-branched operational taxonomic units (OTUs), intracellular endoparasite and ciliate OTUs with unusual substitution etc. In order to evaluate the effects from intracellular endoparasite and ciliate OTUs co-analyzed on the eukaryotic phylogeny and simplify the results, we here used two different sets of data matrices of multiple slowly evolving genes with small amounts of missing data and examined the phylogenetic position of the secondary photosynthetic chromalveolates Haptophyta, one of the most abundant groups of oceanic phytoplankton and significant primary producers. In both sets, a robust sister relationship between Haptophyta and SAR (stramenopiles, alveolates, rhizarians, or SA [stramenopiles and alveolates]) was resolved when intracellular endoparasite/ciliate OTUs were excluded, but not in their presence. Based on comparisons of character optimizations on a fixed tree (with a clade composed of haptophytes and SAR or SA), disruption of the monophyly between haptophytes and SAR (or SA) in the presence of intracellular endoparasite/ciliate OTUs can be considered to be a result of multiple evolutionary reversals of character positions that supported the synapomorphy of the haptophyte and SAR (or SA) clade in the absence of intracellular endoparasite/ciliate OTUs.
Bacterial endosymbionts belonging to the family Rickettsiaceae were recently identified in the unicellular green alga Carteria cerasiformis, providing the first molecular evidence of rickettsial endosymbionts within photosynthetic eukaryotes. However, previous morphological studies using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) with conventional chemical fixation did not demonstrate whether the endosymbionts of C. cerasiformis have the diagnostic characteristics of the family Rickettsiaceae. In this study, we observed the rickettsial endosymbionts "MIDORIKO" within C. cerasiformis cells by TEM with high-pressure freezing and freeze-substitution fixation. The rickettsial endosymbionts resided directly in the C. cerasiformis cytoplasm without engulfing or encompassing membranes or vacuoles. The endosymbionts had a Gram-negative cell envelope composed of outer and inner bilayer membranes. The thicknesses of the outer and inner leaflets of the bacterial cell wall were almost identical. These morphological characteristics are consistent with those of the genus Rickettsia, but the cell wall structure differed from that of the genus Orientia within the family Rickettsiaceae.
The order Rickettsiales comprises gram-negative obligate intracellular bacteria (also called rickettsias) that are mainly associated with arthropod hosts. This group is medically important because it contains human-pathogenic species that cause dangerous diseases. Until now, there has been no report of non-phagotrophic photosynthetic eukaryotes, such as green plants, harboring rickettsias.
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