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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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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