DNA barcoding of Chlorarachniophytes using nucleomorph ITS sequences

Department of Botany, University of British Columbia, 3529-6270 University Boulevard, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6T 1Z4
Journal of Phycology (Impact Factor: 2.84). 07/2010; 46(4):743 - 750. DOI: 10.1111/j.1529-8817.2010.00851.x


Chlorarachniophytes are a small group of marine photosynthetic protists. They are best known as examples of an intermediate stage of secondary endosymbiosis: their plastids are derived from green algae and retain a highly reduced nucleus, called a nucleomorph, between the inner and outer pairs of membranes. Chlorarachniophytes can be challenging to identify to the species level, due to their small size, complex life cycles, and the fact that even genus-level diagnostic morphological characters are observable only by EM. Few species have been formally described, and many available culture collection strains remain unnamed. To alleviate this difficulty, we have developed a barcoding system for rapid and accurate identification of chlorarachniophyte species in culture, based on the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of the nucleomorph rRNA cistron. Although this is a multicopy locus, encoded in both subtelomeric regions of each chromosome, interlocus variability is low due to gene conversion by homologous recombination in this region. Here, we present barcode sequences for 39 cultured strains of chlorarachniophytes (>80% of currently available strains). Based on barcode data, other published molecular data, and information from culture records, we were able to recommend names for 21 out of the 24 unidentified, partially identified, or misidentified chlorarachniophyte strains in culture. Most strains could be assigned to previously described species, but at least two to as many as five new species may be present among cultured strains.

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Available from: Gillian H Gile
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    ABSTRACT: Chlorarachniophytes are enigmatic marine unicellular algae that acquired photosynthesis by secondary endosymbiosis. Chlorarachniophytes are unusual in that the nucleus of the engulfed algal cell (a green alga) persists in a miniaturized form, termed a nucleomorph. The nucleomorph genome of the model chlorarachniophyte, Bigelowiella natans CCMP621, is 373 kilobase pairs (kbp) in size, the smallest nuclear genome characterized to date. The B. natans nucleomorph genome is composed of three chromosomes, each with canonical eukaryotic telomeres and sub-telomeric ribosomal DNA (rDNA) operons transcribed away from the chromosome end. Here we present the complete rDNA operon and telomeric region from the nucleomorph genome of Lotharella oceanica CCMP622, a newly characterized chlorarachniophyte strain with a genome ∼610 kbp in size, significantly larger than all other known chlorarachniophytes. We show that the L. oceanica rDNA operon is in the opposite chromosomal orientation to that of B. natans. Furthermore, we determined the rDNA operon orientation of five additional chlorarachniophyte strains, the majority of which possess the same arrangement as L. oceanica, with the exception of Chlorarachnion reptans and those very closely related to B. natans. It is thus possible that the ancestral rDNA operon orientation of the chlorarachniophyte nucleomorph genome might have been the same as in the independently evolved, red algal-derived, nucleomorph genomes of cryptophytes. A U2 small nuclear RNA gene was found adjacent to the telomere in Gymnochlora stellata CCMP2057 and Chlorarachnion sp. CCMP2014. This feature may represent a useful evolutionary character for inferring the relationships among extant lineages.
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