Green algae stole genes from bacteria to survive in harsh environments, study suggests.
Green algae that evolved to tolerate hostile and fluctuating conditions in salt marshes and inland salt flats are expected to survive climate change, thanks to hardy genes they stole from bacteria, according to a Rutgers-led study.
These Picochlorum single-celled species of green algae provide clues to how nature can modify genomes, and suggest ways in which scientists may someday engineer more robust algae to serve as biofuels and provide other benefits, according to senior author Debashish Bhattacharya, distinguished professor at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. The study appears in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.
The findings reveal how the miniaturized genomes of green algae have evolved from the larger genomes of their freshwater ancestors to become resilient primary producers of organic compounds that support ecosystems. This transition to a saltier and more hostile environment achieved by Picochlorum occurred over millions of years but parallels what is happening on a more rapid scale now due to climate change, said Bhattacharya, who works in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.
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Image via Susanne Ruemmele