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Concept: Green algae


The class Chlorophyceae (Chlorophyta) includes morphologically and ecologically diverse green algae. Most of the documented species belong to the clade formed by the Chlamydomonadales (also called Volvocales) and Sphaeropleales. Although studies based on the nuclear 18S rRNA gene or a few combined genes have shed light on the diversity and phylogenetic structure of the Chlamydomonadales, the positions of many of the monophyletic groups identified remain uncertain. Here, we used a chloroplast phylogenomic approach to delineate the relationships among these lineages.

Concepts: DNA, Evolution, Biology, Species, Ribosomal RNA, Green algae, Chlorophyta, Chlorophyceae


The green algal phylum Chlorophyta has six diverse classes, but the phylogenetic relationship of the classes within Chlorophyta remains uncertain. In order to better understand the ancient Chlorophyta evolution, we have applied a site pattern sorting method to study compositional heterogeneity and the model fit in the green algal chloroplast genomic data. We show that the fastest-evolving sites are significantly correlated with among-site compositional heterogeneity, and these sites have a much poorer fit to the evolutionary model. Our phylogenomic analyses suggest that the class Chlorophyceae is a monophyletic group, and the classes Ulvophyceae, Trebouxiophyceae and Prasinophyceae are non-monophyletic groups. Our proposed phylogenetic tree of Chlorophyta will offer new insights to investigate ancient green algae evolution, and our analytical framework will provide a useful approach for evaluating and mitigating the potential errors of phylogenomic inferences.

Concepts: Evolution, Species, Plant, Phylogenetic tree, Phylogenetics, Cladistics, Green algae, Chlorophyta


In this study, we prepared seven polysaccharides extracted from five algae including one brown alga Saccharina japonica, one red alga Porphyra haitanensis and three green algae Codium fragile, Enteromorpha linza and Bryopsis plumose. The chemical composition and capability of moisture-absorption and moisture-retention were investigated in comparison with those of hyaluronic acid (HA). The low molecular weight polysaccharides extracted from brown seaweed exhibited the highest moisture-absorption and moisture-retention abilities of all of the polysaccharides studied and performed better than HA. The relationships between chemical composition (including sulfated groups, monosaccharide, and molecular weight) and the functions of polysaccharides were also studied. We found the sulfated group was a main active site for moisture-absorption and moisture-retention abilities. These abilities were also related to molecular weight; with the exception of the low molecular weight polysaccharide extracted from red seaweed, lower molecular weight improved moisture-absorption and moisture-retention abilities.

Concepts: Algae, Plant, Water, Brown algae, Green algae, Seaweed, Red algae, Nori


A new biosensor was designed for the assessment of aquatic environment quality. Three microalgae were used as toxicity bioindicators: Chlorella vulgaris, Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata and Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. These microalgae were immobilized in alginate and silica hydrogels in a two step procedure. After studying the growth rate of entrapped cells, chlorophyll fluorescence was measured after exposure to (3-(3,4-dichlorophenyl)-1,1-dimethylurea) (DCMU) and various concentrations of the common herbicide atrazine. Microalgae are very sensitive to herbicides and detection of fluorescence enhancement with very good efficiency was realized. The best detection limit was 0.1 µM, obtained with the strain C. reinhardtii after 40 minutes of exposure.

Concepts: Environment, Measurement, Toxicology, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, Green algae, Herbicide, Atrazine, Herbicides


The green plants (Viridiplantae) are an ancient group of eukaryotes comprising two main clades: the Chlorophyta, which includes a wide diversity of green algae, and the Streptophyta, which consists of freshwater green algae and the land plants. The early-diverging lineages of the Viridiplantae comprise unicellular algae, and multicellularity has evolved independently in the two clades. Recent molecular data have revealed an unrecognized early-diverging lineage of green plants, the Palmophyllales, with a unique form of multicellularity, and typically found in deep water. The phylogenetic position of this enigmatic group, however, remained uncertain. Here we elucidate the evolutionary affinity of the Palmophyllales using chloroplast genomic, and nuclear rDNA data. Phylogenetic analyses firmly place the palmophyllalean Verdigellas peltata along with species of Prasinococcales (prasinophyte clade VI) in the deepest-branching clade of the Chlorophyta. The small, compact and intronless chloroplast genome (cpDNA) of V. peltata shows striking similarities in gene content and organization with the cpDNAs of Prasinococcales and the streptophyte Mesostigma viride, indicating that cpDNA architecture has been extremely well conserved in these deep-branching lineages of green plants. The phylogenetic distinctness of the Palmophyllales-Prasinococcales clade, characterized by unique ultrastructural features, warrants recognition of a new class of green plants, Palmophyllophyceae class. nov.

Concepts: Algae, Photosynthesis, Organism, Eukaryote, Species, Chloroplast, Plant, Green algae


The green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii shows various light responses in behavior and physiology. One such photoresponse is the circadian clock, which can be reset by external light signals to entrain its oscillation to daily environmental cycles. In a previous report, we suggested that a light-induced degradation of the clock protein ROC15 is a trigger to reset the circadian clock in Chlamydomonas. However, light signaling pathways of this process remained unclear. Here, we screened for mutants that show abnormal ROC15 diurnal rhythms, including the light-induced protein degradation at dawn, using a luciferase fusion reporter. In one mutant, ROC15 degradation and phase resetting of the circadian clock by light were impaired. Interestingly, the impairments were observed in response to red and violet light, but not to blue light. We revealed that an uncharacterized gene encoding a protein similar to RAS-signaling-related leucine-rich repeat (LRR) proteins is responsible for the mutant phenotypes. Our results indicate that a previously uncharacterized red/violet light signaling pathway is involved in the phase resetting of circadian clock in Chlamydomonas.

Concepts: Protein, Gene, Signal transduction, Mutant, Sleep, Circadian rhythm, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, Green algae


The lack of heterotrimeric G-protein homologs in the sequenced genomes of green algae has led to the hypothesis that in plants, this signaling mechanism co-evolved with the embryophytic life cycle and acquisition of terrestrial habitat. Given the large evolutionary gap that exists between the chlorophyte green algae and most basal land plants, the bryophytes, we evaluated the presence of this signaling complex in a charophyte green alga, Chara braunii, proposed to be the closest living relative of land plants. C. braunii genome encodes for the entire G-protein complex, the Gα, Gβ and Gγ subunits, and the regulator of G-protein signaling (RGS) protein. The biochemical properties of these proteins and their cross-species functionality show that they are functional homologs of canonical G-proteins. The subunit-specific interactions between CbGα and CbGβ, CbGβ and CbGγ, and CbGα and CbRGS are also conserved, establishing the existence of functional G-protein complex-based signaling mechanisms in green algae.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Species, Plant, Fungus, Embryophyte, Green algae, Red algae, Charales


Although some species of Characeae, known as stoneworts, can be found on every continent except Antarctica, many species and some genera have limited geographic distributions. The genus Lychnothamnus, represented by a single extant species L. barbatus, was known only from scattered localities in Europe and Australasia until it was recently discovered in North America.

Concepts: Algae, Continent, Species, Europe, Asia, North America, South America, Green algae


The current hypothesis is that land plants originated from a charophycean green alga and that a prominent feature for adaptation to land was their development of alternating life cycles. Our work on cell wall evolution and morphological and physiological observations in the charophycean green algae challenged us to reassess how land plants became terrestrial. Our hypothesis is simple in that the charophycean green algae ancestors were already living on land and had been doing so for some time before the emergence of land plants. The evolution of alternate life cycles merely made the ancestral land plants evolutionary successful and had nothing to do with terrestrialization per se.

Concepts: Cyanobacteria, Photosynthesis, Eukaryote, Species, Plant, Fungus, Green algae, Red algae


Most microalgae abundantly accumulate lipid droplets (LDs) containing triacylglycerols (TAGs) under several stress conditions, but the underlying molecular mechanism of this accumulation remains unclear. In a recent study, we found that inhibition of TOR (target of rapamycin), a highly conserved protein kinase of eukaryotes, by rapamycin resulted in TAG accumulation in microalgae, indicating that TOR negatively regulates TAG accumulation. Here, we show that formation of intracellular LDs and TAG accumulation were also induced in the unicellular green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii after exposure to Torin1 or AZD8055, which are novel TOR inhibitors that inhibit TOR activity in a manner different from rapamycin. These results supported quite well our previous conclusion that TOR is a central regulator of TAG accumulation in microalgae.

Concepts: Algae, Metabolism, Eukaryote, Enzyme inhibitor, Inhibitor, Xanthine oxidase inhibitor, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, Green algae