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J Phycol. 2018 Feb;54(1):66-78. doi: 10.1111/jpy.12600. Epub 2017 Nov 29.

Origin and evolution of chloroplast group I introns in lichen algae.

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Department of Life Sciences, University of Alcalá, Alcalá de Henares, 28805, Madrid, Spain.


The history of group I introns is characterized by repeated horizontal transfers, even among phylogenetically distant species. The symbiogenetic thalli of lichens are good candidates for the horizontal transfer of genetic material among distantly related organisms, such as fungi and green algae. The main goal of this study was to determine whether there were different trends in intron distribution and properties among Chlorophyte algae based on their phylogenetic relationships and living conditions. Therefore, we investigated the occurrence, distribution and properties of group I introns within the chloroplast LSU rDNA in 87 Chlorophyte algae including lichen and free-living Trebouxiophyceae compared to free-living non-Trebouxiophyceae species. Overall, our findings showed that there was high diversity of group I introns and homing endonucleases (HEs) between Trebouxiophyceae and non-Trebouxiophyceae Chlorophyte algae, with divergence in their distribution patterns, frequencies and properties. However, the differences between lichen Trebouxiophyceae and free-living Trebouxiophyceae were smaller. An exception was the cL2449 intron, which was closely related to ω elements in yeasts. Such introns seem to occur more frequently in lichen Trebouxiophyceae compared to free-living Trebouxiophyceae. Our data suggest that lichenization and maintenance of lichen symbiosis for millions of years of evolution may have facilitated horizontal transfers of specific introns/HEs between symbionts. The data also suggest that sequencing of more chloroplast genes harboring group I introns in diverse algal groups may help us to understand the group I intron/HE transmission process within these organisms.


LAGLIDADG ; 23S rRNA; Chlorophyta; Trebouxiophyceae; chloroplast; homing endonuclease; intron; phycobiont


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