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Proc Biol Sci. 2001 Jul 7;268(1474):1417-22.

The unique features of starch metabolism in red algae.

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Scottish Crop Research Institute, Unit of Plant Biochemistry, Invergowrie, Dundee DD2 5DA, UK.


Red algae (Rhodophyceae) are photosynthetic eukaryotes that accumulate starch granules outside of their plastids. The starch granules from red algae (floridean starch) show structural similarities with higher plant starch granules but lack amylose. Recent studies have indicated that the extra-plastidic starch synthesis in red algae proceeds via a UDP glucose-selective alpha-glucan synthase, in analogy with the cytosolic pathway of glycogen synthesis in other eukaryotes. On the other hand, plastidic starch synthesis in green cells occurs selectively via ADP glucose in analogy with the pathway of glycogen synthesis in prokaryotes from which plastids have evolved. Given the emerging consensus of a monophyletic origin of plastids, it would appear that the capacity for starch synthesis selectively evolved from the alpha-glucan synthesizing machinery of the host ancestor and its endosymbiont in red algae and green algae, respectively. This implies the evolution of fundamentally different functional relationships between the different subcellular compartments with regard to photosynthetic carbon metabolism in these organisms. It is suggested that the biochemical and molecular elucidation of floridean starch synthesis may offer new insights into the metabolic strategies of photosynthetic eukaryotes.

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