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Ann Rev Mar Sci. 2010;2:333-65.

Oceanographic and biogeochemical insights from diatom genomes.

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  • 1CNRS UMR8186, Department of Biology, Ecole Normale SupĂ©rieure, Paris, France.


Diatoms are the most successful group of eukaryotic phytoplankton in the modern ocean and have risen to dominance relatively quickly over the last 100 million years. Recently completed whole genome sequences from two species of diatom, Thalassiosira pseudonana and Phaeodactylum tricornutum, have revealed a wealth of information about the evolutionary origins and metabolic adaptations that have led to their ecological success. A major finding is that they have incorporated genes both from their endosymbiotic ancestors and by horizontal gene transfer from marine bacteria. This unique melting pot of genes encodes novel capacities for metabolic management, for example, allowing the integration of a urea cycle into a photosynthetic cell. In this review we show how genome-enabled approaches are being leveraged to explore major phenomena of oceanographic and biogeochemical relevance, such as nutrient assimilation and life histories in diatoms. We also discuss how diatoms may be affected by climate change-induced alterations in ocean processes.

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