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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Apr 29;94(9):4520-5.

The origin of red algae: implications for plastid evolution.

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  • 1University of Washington, Department of Botany, Box 355325, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


The origin of the red algae has remained an enigma. Historically the Rhodophyta were classified first as plants and later as the most ancient eukaryotic organisms. Recent molecular studies have indicated similarities between red and green plastids, which suggest that there was a single endosymbiotic origin for these organelles in a common ancestor of the rhodophytes and green plants. Previous efforts to confirm or reject this effort by analyses of nuclear DNA have been inconclusive; thus, additional molecular markers are needed to establish the relationship between the host cell lineages, independent of the evolutionary history of their plastids. To furnish such a data set we have sequenced the largest subunit of RNA polymerase II from two red algae, a green alga and a relatively derived amoeboid protist. Phylogenetic analyses provide strong statistical support for an early evolutionary emergence of the Rhodophyta that preceded the origin of the line that led to plants, animals, and fungi. These data, which are congruent with results from extensive analyses of nuclear rDNA, argue for a reexamination of current models of plastid evolution.

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