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Unravelling the evolutionary forces that shape the B12 requirements of algae

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The distribution of vitamin B12 dependence in algae is sporadic and there are several examples of closely-related species which differ in their requirements for this vitamin. Such variable cofactor dependence raises interesting evolutionary questions. Vitamin B12 is an essential cofactor for the vitamin B12 dependent isoform (METH). However, the second isoform (METE) functions independently of vitamin B12 . With the completion of several algal genome projects, a wealth of genomic information is now available for representatives of key phylogenetic groups. Using this resource, we have accumulated evidence which points to multiple losses METE as being a key factor in the evolution of B12 dependence in algae. The discovery of METE pseudogenes in the B12 -dependent Chlorophycean species: Volvox carteri and Gonium pectorale, captures this evolutionary transition in action. Moreover, the repression of METE expression by B12 in the diverse algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and Phaeodactylum tricornutum, provides a mechanism for this to occur, since prolonged repression of the gene by a reliable source of vitamin B12 could lead to the accumulation of mutations, and eventually the loss of METE entirely. During my talk I will provide a summary of our most recent work that uses a variety of approaches to try to understand this process is more detail. Such insight would be highly valuable for our understanding of the interplay between genes and nutrients in algae, which has important physiological and ecological consequences.

This talk is part of the Plant Sciences Research Seminars series.

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