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J Exp Bot. 2017 Jun 1;68(14):3739-3749. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erx178.

The algal pyrenoid: key unanswered questions.

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Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EA, UK.


The confinement of Rubisco in a chloroplast microcompartment, or pyrenoid, is a distinctive feature of most microalgae, and contributes to perhaps ~30 Pg of carbon fixed each year, yet our understanding of pyrenoid composition, regulation, and function remains fragmentary. Recently, significant progress in understanding the pyrenoid has arisen from studies using mutant lines, mass spectrometric analysis of isolated pyrenoids, and advanced ultrastructural imaging of the microcompartment in the model alga Chlamydomonas. The emergence of molecular details in other lineages provides a comparative framework for this review, and evidence that most pyrenoids function similarly, even in the absence of a common ancestry. The objective of this review is to explore pyrenoid diversity throughout key algal lineages and discuss whether common ultrastructural and cellular features are indicative of common functional processes. By characterizing pyrenoid origins in terms of mechanistic and structural parallels, we hope to provide key unanswered questions which will inform future research directions.


Algae; CO2-concentrating mechanism; Chlamydomonas; Rubisco; photosynthesis; pyrenoid; reinhardtii

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