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BMC Genomics. 2006 Nov 23;7:297.

Comparative analysis of dinoflagellate chloroplast genomes reveals rRNA and tRNA genes.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, Downing Site, Tennis Court Road, Cambridge, CB2 1QW, UK.



Peridinin-containing dinoflagellates have a highly reduced chloroplast genome, which is unlike that found in other chloroplast containing organisms. Genome reduction appears to be the result of extensive transfer of genes to the nuclear genome. Unusually the genes believed to be remaining in the chloroplast genome are found on small DNA 'minicircles'. In this study we present a comparison of sets of minicircle sequences from three dinoflagellate species.


PCR was used to amplify several minicircles from Amphidinium carterae so that a homologous set of gene-containing minicircles was available for Amphidinium carterae and Amphidinium operculatum, two apparently closely related peridinin-containing dinoflagellates. We compared the sequences of these minicircles to determine the content and characteristics of their chloroplast genomes. We also made comparisons with minicircles which had been obtained from Heterocapsa triquetra, another peridinin-containing dinoflagellate. These in silico comparisons have revealed several genetic features which were not apparent in single species analyses. The features include further protein coding genes, unusual rRNA genes, which we show are transcribed, and the first examples of tRNA genes from peridinin-containing dinoflagellate chloroplast genomes.


Comparative analysis of minicircle sequences has allowed us to identify previously unrecognised features of dinoflagellate chloroplast genomes, including additional protein and RNA genes. The chloroplast rRNA gene sequences are radically different from those in other organisms, and in many ways resemble the rRNA genes found in some highly reduced mitochondrial genomes. The retention of certain tRNA genes in the dinoflagellate chloroplast genome has important implications for models of chloroplast-mitochondrion interaction.

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