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Open Access Research article

The chloroplast genome sequence of the green alga Leptosira terrestris: multiple losses of the inverted repeat and extensive genome rearrangements within the Trebouxiophyceae

Jean-Charles de Cambiaire, Christian Otis, Monique Turmel and Claude Lemieux*

Author Affiliations

Département de biochimie et de microbiologie, Université Laval, Québec, Canada

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BMC Genomics 2007, 8:213  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-8-213

Published: 4 July 2007

Abstract

Background

In the Chlorophyta – the green algal phylum comprising the classes Prasinophyceae, Ulvophyceae, Trebouxiophyceae and Chlorophyceae – the chloroplast genome displays a highly variable architecture. While chlorophycean chloroplast DNAs (cpDNAs) deviate considerably from the ancestral pattern described for the prasinophyte Nephroselmis olivacea, the degree of remodelling sustained by the two ulvophyte cpDNAs completely sequenced to date is intermediate relative to those observed for chlorophycean and trebouxiophyte cpDNAs. Chlorella vulgaris (Chlorellales) is currently the only photosynthetic trebouxiophyte whose complete cpDNA sequence has been reported. To gain insights into the evolutionary trends of the chloroplast genome in the Trebouxiophyceae, we sequenced cpDNA from the filamentous alga Leptosira terrestris (Ctenocladales).

Results

The 195,081-bp Leptosira chloroplast genome resembles the 150,613-bp Chlorella genome in lacking a large inverted repeat (IR) but differs greatly in gene order. Six of the conserved genes present in Chlorella cpDNA are missing from the Leptosira gene repertoire. The 106 conserved genes, four introns and 11 free standing open reading frames (ORFs) account for 48.3% of the genome sequence. This is the lowest gene density yet observed among chlorophyte cpDNAs. Contrary to the situation in Chlorella but similar to that in the chlorophycean Scenedesmus obliquus, the gene distribution is highly biased over the two DNA strands in Leptosira. Nine genes, compared to only three in Chlorella, have significantly expanded coding regions relative to their homologues in ancestral-type green algal cpDNAs. As observed in chlorophycean genomes, the rpoB gene is fragmented into two ORFs. Short repeats account for 5.1% of the Leptosira genome sequence and are present mainly in intergenic regions.

Conclusion

Our results highlight the great plasticity of the chloroplast genome in the Trebouxiophyceae and indicate that the IR was lost on at least two separate occasions. The intriguing similarities of the derived features exhibited by Leptosira cpDNA and its chlorophycean counterparts suggest that the same evolutionary forces shaped the IR-lacking chloroplast genomes in these two algal lineages.