Research

Genome suggests why red alga didn’t come ashore

April 2, 2013
AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com

In the foreground, the red alga, Chondrus crispus  © Jonas Collén

In the foreground, the red alga, Chondrus crispus © Jonas Collén

The first red alga genome has recently been sequenced by an international team, coordinated in France by Le Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and Pierre-and-Marie-Curie University (UPMC) at the Station Biologique de Roscoff, in Brittany. The project notably involved researchers from the French National Sequencing Centre: CEA-Genoscope, the universities of Lille and Rennes, and the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle.

The genome of Chondrus crispus, also known by the Breton name ‘pioka,’ turns out to be small and compact for a multicellular organism. It has fewer genes than several other species of unicellular algae, which raises a number of questions about the evolution of red algae. This low number of genes could explain why these organisms never colonized dry land, unlike their green counterparts – from which all terrestrial plants are descended.

These findings open up new perspectives on the natural history of algae and of terrestrial plants. They were published online in the journal PNAS on March 11, 2013.

Chondrus crispus is a multicellular red alga of about 20 cm in length. It is very common on the rocky coasts of the North Atlantic where it plays an essential role as a primary producer in these ecosystems. Certain red algae are now used in the agri-food industry for the thickening properties of the carrageenans from their cell walls. These sulfated polysaccharides correspond to the food additive E-407, which goes into many desserts and other dishes. Beyond industrial applications, this first sequencing of a red alga genome sheds new light on plant evolution as a whole.

A Chondrus crispus red alga ©Jonas Collén

A Chondrus crispus red alga ©Jonas Collén

The Chondrus genome had some surprises for the researchers. With only 9,606 genes and 105 million base pairs, it is very small for a multicellular organism. By comparison, the unicellular green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii has 14,516 genes, the multicellular terrestrial plant Arabadopsis thaliana has 27,416. The Chondrus genome is also very compact, with each function generally corresponding to a single gene. Gene families are small, and genes closely spaced.

To explain these surprising characteristics, the researchers proposed the hypothesis that, more than a billion years ago, red algae experienced a massive loss of genetic material as a result of extreme environmental conditions. This dramatic event in their evolutionary history would have had many consequences. One result could be the loss of flagellar genes, still present in most other organisms and responsible for the motility of certain cells (such as the gametes during sexual reproduction in most organisms, including humans).

Had this massive gene loss never occurred, red algae might have extensively colonized the terrestrial environment, in the same way as green algae, which are the ancestors of all land plants. Yet this event – a real evolutionary bottleneck –has denied red algae the plasticity and genetic potential necessary to adapt to life on land.

The sequence of the Chondrus genome opens the archives of more than 1,500 million years of evolutionary history of terrestrial and marine plants. It provides a new basis for the study of red algae biology and is the first step in a program aiming to improve our understanding of the origins of life on Earth, the adaptation of red algae to their environment and the biosynthesis pathways of biomolecules of interest, such as carrageenans. The scientists of the group are also hoping to discover new enzymes of interest for marine biotechnology.

More Like This…

HOME Algae Industry Jobs

Copyright ©2010-2013 AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com. All rights reserved. Permission granted to reprint this article in its entirety. Must include copyright statement and live hyperlinks. Contact editorial@algaeindustrymagazine.com. A.I.M. accepts unsolicited manuscripts for consideration, and takes no responsibility for the validity of claims made in submitted editorial.

From The A.I.M. Archives

— Refresh Page for More Choices
By sending algae into space, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist and his team will be able to study some of the key mechanisms that control plant growth and...
In Phys.Org, Yu Yonehara notes the breakthrough research from the Tokyo Institute of Technology on the connection between early marine algae and the development of terres...
A new, outdoor system at the University of Dayton Research Institute has been producing a high volume of algae since its installation in the summer of 2013, even through ...
Kazuaki Nagata reports from Japan that while the Fukushima nuclear disaster has prompted vigorous discussion about alternative energy in Japan, there is a lack of a paral...
Steven Mufson reports for the Washington Post that Algenol Biofuels estimates hackers have attempted to break into its computers 39 million times in four months this year...
Perth, Western Australia-based Algae.Tec Limited has announced that the Reliance Group has converted the first tranche of options following the positive progress achieved...
Phys.Org reports that scientists Jolanda Verspagen and Jef Huisman of the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands have concluded that rising CO2 concentrations in the at...
Portuguese cement facility, Secil, and microalgae biotechnology company, A4F, also based in Portugal, have formed AlgaFarm, a joint venture to develop the use of cement f...
SCHOTT AG, of Mitterteich, Germany, and Algatechnologies Ltd. (Algatech), based at Israel’s Kibbutz Ketura, have signed an R&D agreement to strengthen their partnersh...
Analia Murias 
reports for fis.com that Chilean exports of products made from macroalgae generated a total of $195 million US in the first seven months of 2014, according...
U.S. farmers and biofuels makers are watching for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) final decision on the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard rules, which will set t...
James “Jamie” Levine took over the reigns at Sapphire Energy in July of this year as former President and CEO Cynthia “CJ” Warner stepped down, retaining her role as chai...
With their new CO₂ processing-platform called AstaCos, AlgaeBiotech can produce waxy particles of only 50-100 µm in size with a loading of 25% astaxanthin oleoresin. The ...
A team of Michigan State University algae researchers have discovered a cellular "snooze button" that has the potential to improve biofuel production and offer ...
MicroBio Engineering, Inc., of San Luis Obispo, California, has introduced a full suite of open pond microalgae growth systems designed for quick deployment of research- ...
Solazyme, Inc. and Versalis, the chemical subsidiary of Eni S.p.A., one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, today announced a partnership to expand the commerci...
Hortidaily.com reports that in Nevele, Belgium, Tomalgae is growing algae in a former tomato greenhouse. Their company was formed when tomato cultivation entrepreneurs Pi...
Iran-based Qeshm Microalgae Biorefinery Co. (QMAB) has launched a biofuel being marketed as BAYA®, produced from a species of Nannochloropsis (strain 6016) isolated from ...