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Brown tide culprit sequenced: Genome of the first of algal bloom species
Date:2/21/2011

llions of Aureococcus cells come together, however, they outcompete the other marine phytoplankton in the area, damaging the food chains in marine ecosystems as well as economically impacting the shellfish industry. Economic losses attributed to this and other HAB phenomena in the United States over the course of the last decade have been estimated at one billion dollars.

"In the decade since publishing the draft of the human genome, JGI has pioneered the exploration of marine algal genomics with sequences of the first diatoms, Ostreococcus and cyanobacteria," said Grigoriev. "Compared to these phytoplankton inhabiting the same estuaries, Aureococcus, which outcompetes them, shows genome-encoded advantages to benefit from alternative nutrients, survive under variable light conditions, and encode the largest number of selenoproteins (which use the trace element selenium to perform essential cell functions) known to date."

Gobler elaborated on how Aureococcus can outcompete the other phytoplankton in a coastal estuary. "When we looked at the coastal ecosystems where we find Aureococcus blooms, we found they were enriched in organic matter, were very turbid and enriched in trace metals," he said. "And when we looked at the genome of Aureococcus, it ended up being enriched in genes to take advantage of these conditions. The surprise was the concordance between the genome and the ecosystem where it's blooming."

For example, this photosynthetic microalga is well-adapted to low light, and can survive for long periods in no-light conditions. The genomic study revealed that Aureococcus had 62 light-harvesting genes whereas its competitors had on average a couple of dozen of these genes.

"I think this paper says it all," said Don Anderson, a senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who has studied harmful algal blooms for decades and is a tireless promoter of research efforts in th
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Contact: David Gilbert
degilbert@lbl.gov
925-321-1107
DOE/Joint Genome Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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