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Genetics. 2005 Aug;170(4):1601-10. Epub 2005 Jun 14.

Portrait of a species: Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.

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Division of Biology and Medicine, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912, USA.


Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, the first alga subject to a genome project, has been the object of numerous morphological, physiological, and genetic studies. The organism has two genetically determined mating types (plus and minus) and all stages of the simple life cycle can be evoked in culture. In the nearly 60 years since the first standard laboratory strains were isolated, numerous crosses and exchanges among laboratories have led to some confusion concerning strain genealogy. Here we use analyses of the nuclear internal transcribed spacer regions and other genetic traits to resolve these issues, correctly identify strains currently available, and analyze phylogenetic relationships with all other available similar chlamydomonad types. The presence of a 10-bp indel in ITS2 in some but not all copies of the nuclear ribosomal cistrons of an individual organism, and the changing ratios of these in crosses, provide a tool to investigate mechanisms of concerted evolution. The standard C. reinhardtii strains, plus C. smithii +, plus the new eastern North American C. reinhardtii isolates, comprise one morphological species, one biological species of high sexual intercompatibility, and essentially identical ITS sequences (except the tip of helix I of ITS2). However, variant RFLP patterns characterize strains from each geographic site.

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