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Curr Biol. 2006 Dec 5;16(23):2320-5.

Cyanobacterial contribution to algal nuclear genomes is primarily limited to plastid functions.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences and Roy J. Carver Center for Comparative Genomics, University of Iowa, 446 Biology Building, Iowa City, Iowa 52242, USA.


A single cyanobacterial primary endosymbiosis that occurred approximately 1.5 billion years ago is believed to have given rise to the plastid in the common ancestor of the Plantae or Archaeplastida--the eukaryotic supergroup comprising red, green (including land plants), and glaucophyte algae. Critical to plastid establishment was the transfer of endosymbiont genes to the host nucleus (i.e., endosymbiotic gene transfer [EGT]). It has been postulated that plastid-derived EGT played a significant role in plant nuclear-genome evolution, with 18% (or 4,500) of all nuclear genes in Arabidopsis thaliana having a cyanobacterial origin with about one-half of these recruited for nonplastid functions. Here, we determine whether the level of cyanobacterial gene recruitment proposed for Arabidopsis is of the same magnitude in the algal sisters of plants by analyzing expressed-sequence tag (EST) data from the glaucophyte alga Cyanophora paradoxa. Bioinformatic analysis of 3,576 Cyanophora nuclear genes shows that 10.8% of these with significant database hits are of cyanobacterial origin and one-ninth of these have nonplastid functions. Our data indicate that unlike plants, early-diverging algal groups appear to retain a smaller number of endosymbiont genes in their nucleus, with only a minor proportion of these recruited for nonplastid functions.

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