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1.  Lateral transfer of eukaryotic ribosomal RNA genes: an emerging concern for molecular ecology of microbial eukaryotes 
The ISME Journal  2014;8(7):1544-1547.
Ribosomal RNA (rRNA) genes are widely utilized in depicting organismal diversity and distribution in a wide range of environments. Although a few cases of lateral transfer of rRNA genes between closely related prokaryotes have been reported, it remains to be reported from eukaryotes. Here, we report the first case of lateral transfer of eukaryotic rRNA genes. Two distinct sequences of the 18S rRNA gene were detected from a clonal culture of the stramenopile, Ciliophrys infusionum. One was clearly derived from Ciliophrys, but the other gene originated from a perkinsid alveolate. Genome-walking analyses revealed that this alveolate-type rRNA gene is immediately adjacent to two protein-coding genes (ubc12 and usp39), and the origin of both genes was shown to be a stramenopile (that is, Ciliophrys) in our phylogenetic analyses. These findings indicate that the alveolate-type rRNA gene is encoded on the Ciliophrys genome and that eukaryotic rRNA genes can be transferred laterally.
PMCID: PMC4069394  PMID: 24451210
18S rRNA gene; environmental DNA; lateral gene transfer
2.  Algivore or Phototroph? Plakobranchus ocellatus (Gastropoda) Continuously Acquires Kleptoplasts and Nutrition from Multiple Algal Species in Nature 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e42024.
The sea slug Plakobranchus ocellatus (Sacoglossa, Gastropoda) retains photosynthetically active chloroplasts from ingested algae (functional kleptoplasts) in the epithelial cells of its digestive gland for up to 10 months. While its feeding behavior has not been observed in natural habitats, two hypotheses have been proposed: 1) adult P. ocellatus uses kleptoplasts to obtain photosynthates and nutritionally behaves as a photoautotroph without replenishing the kleptoplasts; or 2) it behaves as a mixotroph (photoautotroph and herbivorous consumer) and replenishes kleptoplasts continually or periodically. To address the question of which hypothesis is more likely, we examined the source algae for kleptoplasts and temporal changes in kleptoplast composition and nutritional contribution. By characterizing the temporal diversity of P. ocellatus kleptoplasts using rbcL sequences, we found that P. ocellatus harvests kleptoplasts from at least 8 different siphonous green algal species, that kleptoplasts from more than one species are present in each individual sea slug, and that the kleptoplast composition differs temporally. These results suggest that wild P. ocellatus often feed on multiple species of siphonous algae from which they continually obtain fresh chloroplasts. By estimating the trophic position of wild and starved P. ocellatus using the stable nitrogen isotopic composition of amino acids, we showed that despite the abundance of kleptoplasts, their photosynthates do not contribute greatly to the nutrition of wild P. ocellatus, but that kleptoplast photosynthates form a significant source of nutrition for starved sea slugs. The herbivorous nature of wild P. ocellatus is consistent with insights from molecular analyses indicating that kleptoplasts are frequently replenished from ingested algae, leading to the conclusion that natural populations of P. ocellatus do not rely on photosynthesis but mainly on the digestion of ingested algae.
PMCID: PMC3404988  PMID: 22848693
3.  Lateral transfer of tetrahymanol-synthesizing genes has allowed multiple diverse eukaryote lineages to independently adapt to environments without oxygen 
Biology Direct  2012;7:5.
Sterols are key components of eukaryotic cellular membranes that are synthesized by multi-enzyme pathways that require molecular oxygen. Because prokaryotes fundamentally lack sterols, it is unclear how the vast diversity of bacterivorous eukaryotes that inhabit hypoxic environments obtain, or synthesize, sterols. Here we show that tetrahymanol, a triterpenoid that does not require molecular oxygen for its biosynthesis, likely functions as a surrogate of sterol in eukaryotes inhabiting oxygen-poor environments. Genes encoding the tetrahymanol synthesizing enzyme squalene-tetrahymanol cyclase were found from several phylogenetically diverged eukaryotes that live in oxygen-poor environments and appear to have been laterally transferred among such eukaryotes.
This article was reviewed by Eric Bapteste and Eugene Koonin.
PMCID: PMC3317845  PMID: 22296756
eukaryotes; lateral gene transfer; phagocytosis; sterols; tetrahymanol
4.  A phylogenetic mosaic plastid proteome and unusual plastid-targeting signals in the green-colored dinoflagellate Lepidodinium chlorophorum 
Plastid replacements through secondary endosymbioses include massive transfer of genes from the endosymbiont to the host nucleus and require a new targeting system to enable transport of the plastid-targeted proteins across 3-4 plastid membranes. The dinoflagellates are the only eukaryotic lineage that has been shown to have undergone several plastid replacement events, and this group is thus highly relevant for studying the processes involved in plastid evolution. In this study, we analyzed the phylogenetic origin and N-terminal extensions of plastid-targeted proteins from Lepidodinium chlorophorum, a member of the only dinoflagellate genus that harbors a green secondary plastid rather than the red algal-derived, peridinin-containing plastid usually found in photosynthetic dinoflagellates.
We sequenced 4,746 randomly picked clones from a L. chlorophorum cDNA library. 22 of the assembled genes were identified as genes encoding proteins functioning in plastids. Some of these were of green algal origin. This confirms that genes have been transferred from the plastid to the host nucleus of L. chlorophorum and indicates that the plastid is fully integrated as an organelle in the host. Other nuclear-encoded plastid-targeted protein genes, however, are clearly not of green algal origin, but have been derived from a number of different algal groups, including dinoflagellates, streptophytes, heterokonts, and red algae. The characteristics of N-terminal plastid-targeting peptides of all of these genes are substantially different from those found in peridinin-containing dinoflagellates and green algae.
L. chlorophorum expresses plastid-targeted proteins with a range of different origins, which probably arose through endosymbiotic gene transfer (EGT) and horizontal gene transfer (HGT). The N-terminal extension of the genes is different from the extensions found in green alga and other dinoflagellates (peridinin- and haptophyte plastids). These modifications have likely enabled the mosaic proteome of L. chlorophorum.
PMCID: PMC3055265  PMID: 20565933
5.  A Hypothesis for the Evolution of Nuclear-Encoded, Plastid-Targeted Glyceraldehyde-3-Phosphate Dehydrogenase Genes in “Chromalveolate” Members 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(3):e4737.
Eukaryotes bearing red alga-derived plastids — photosynthetic alveolates (dinoflagellates plus the apicomplexan Toxoplasma gondii plus the chromerid Chromera velia), photosynthetic stramenopiles, haptophytes, and cryptophytes — possess unique plastid-targeted glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenases (henceforth designated as “GapC1”). Pioneering phylogenetic studies have indicated a single origin of the GapC1 enzymes in eukaryotic evolution, but there are two potential idiosyncrasies in the GapC1 phylogeny: Firstly, the GapC1 tree topology is apparently inconsistent with the organismal relationship among the “GapC1-containing” groups. Secondly, four stramenopile GapC1 homologues are consistently paraphyletic in previously published studies, although these organisms have been widely accepted as monophyletic. For a closer examination of the above issues, in this study GapC1 gene sampling was improved by determining/identifying nine stramenopile and two cryptophyte genes. Phylogenetic analyses of our GapC1 dataset, which is particularly rich in the stramenopile homologues, prompt us to propose a new scenario that assumes multiple, lateral GapC1 gene transfer events to explain the incongruity between the GapC1 phylogeny and the organismal relationships amongst the “GapC1-containing” groups. Under our new scenario, GapC1 genes uniquely found in photosynthetic alveolates, photosynthetic stramenopiles, haptophytes, and cryptopyhytes are not necessarily a character vertically inherited from a common ancestor.
PMCID: PMC2649427  PMID: 19270733

Results 1-5 (5)