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Chalking up a marine blooming alga: Genome fills a gap in the tree of life
Date:6/14/2013

noflagellates, the Ehux strain sequenced by the DOE JGI was isolated from the South Pacific and is the first reference genome for coccolithophores. The project took longer than expected to complete due to the complexities and size of the Ehux genome. Originally estimated to be about 30 million bases, closer to a diatom, but the genome ended up being closer to 141 million bases. Starting with an individual investigator working with the DOE JGI for over ten years, the team forged a strong community of users to bring the project to completion.

"Because of the size and inherent complexities, the genome become known as 'The Beast' and without the epic persistence and unwavering commitment from the DOE JGI, the project would not have been completed," said Read, who proposed the sequencing of Ehux back in 2002.

With the advent of next generation sequencing technologies the team was able to conduct a comparison of 13 Ehux strains revealing the first ever algal 'pan-genome." Ehux doesn't exist as a clearly defined "species" with a uniform genome, but as a more diffuse community of genomesa "pan-genome"with different individuals possessing a shared "core" of genes, but supplemented by different gene sets thought to be useful in dealing with the particular challenges of its local environment.

"Ehux thrives in a broad range of physiochemical conditions in the ocean," said Igor Grigoriev, the paper's senior author, whose team from the DOE JGI led the genome annotation and analysis. "It's a complex genome, with lots of genes and repeats, the first reference for haptophytes and fills another gap in the Eukaryotic Tree of Life. It is amazing that while you need a microscope in order to see this elegantly sculptured microbe, you can see from outer space the light reflected from large areas of ocean during Ehux blooms."

The team found variability in the Ehux genome that helps explain the alga's ability to thrive in oceans from the equator to the
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Contact: David Gilbert
degilbert@lbl.gov
925-296-5643
DOE/Joint Genome Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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