Evolution of oleosin in land plants.
Oleosins form a steric barrier surface on lipid droplets in cytoplasm, preventing them from contacting and coalescing with adjacent droplets. Oleosin genes have been detected in numerous plant species. However, the presence of oleosin genes in the most basally diverging lineage of land plants, liverworts, has not been reported previously. Thus we explored whether liverworts have an oleosin gene. In Marchantia polymorpha L., a thalloid liverwort, one predicted sequence was found that could encode oleosin, possessing the hallmark of oleosin, a proline knot (-PX5SPX3P-) motif. The phylogeny of the oleosin gene family in land plants was reconstructed based on both nucleotide and amino acid sequences of oleosins, from 31 representative species covering almost all the main lineages of land plants. Based on our phylogenetic trees, oleosin genes were classified into three groups: M-oleosins (defined here as a novel group distinct from the two previously known groups), low molecular weight isoform (L-oleosin), and high molecular weight isoform (H-oleosin), according to their amino-acid organization, phylogenetic relationships, expression tissues, and immunological characteristics. In liverworts, mosses, lycophytes, and gymnosperms, only M-oleosins have been described. In angiosperms, however, while this isoform remains and is highly expressed in the gametophyte pollen tube, two other isoforms also occur, L-oleosins and H-oleosins. Phylogenetic analyses suggest that the M-oleosin isoform is the precursor to the ancestor of L-oleosins and H-oleosins. The later two isoforms evolved by successive gene duplications in ancestral angiosperms. At the genomic level, most oleosins possess no introns. If introns are present, in both the L-isoform and the M-isoform a single intron inserts behind the central region, while in the H-isoform, a single intron is located at the 5'-terminus. This study fills a major gap in understanding functional gene evolution of oleosin in land plants, shedding new light on evolutionary transitions of lipid storage strategies.