Phylogeny of ultra-rapidly evolving dinoflagellate chloroplast genes: a possible common origin for sporozoan and dinoflagellate plastids

Z Zhang, B R Green, T Cavalier-Smith
Journal of Molecular Evolution 2000, 51 (1): 26-40
Complete chloroplast 23S rRNA and psbA genes from five peridinin-containing dinoflagellates (Heterocapsa pygmaea, Heterocapsa niei, Heterocapsa rotun-data, Amphidinium carterae, and Protoceratium reticulatum) were amplified by PCR and sequenced; partial sequences were obtained from Thoracosphaera heimii and Scrippsiella trochoidea. Comparison with chloroplast 23S rRNA and psbA genes of other organisms shows that dinoflagellate chloroplast genes are the most divergent and rapidly evolving of all. Quartet puzzling, maximum likelihood, maximum parsimony, neighbor joining, and LogDet trees were constructed. Intersite rate variation and invariant sites were allowed for with quartet puzzling and neighbor joining. All psbA and 23S rRNA trees showed peridinin-containing dinoflagellate chloroplasts as monophyletic. In psbA trees they are related to those of chromists and red algae. In 23S rRNA trees, dinoflagellates are always the sisters of Sporozoa (apicomplexans); maximum likelihood analysis of Heterocapsa triquetra 16S rRNA also groups the dinoflagellate and sporozoan sequences, but the other methods were inconsistent. Thus, dinoflagellate chloroplasts may actually be related to sporozoan plastids, but the possibility of reproducible long-branch artifacts cannot be strongly ruled out. The results for all three genes fit the idea that dinoflagellate chloroplasts originated from red algae by a secondary endosymbiosis, possibly the same one as for chromists and Sporozoa. The marked disagreement between 16S rRNA trees using different phylogenetic algorithms indicates that this is a rather poor molecule for elucidating overall chloroplast phylogeny. We discuss possible reasons why both plastid and mitochondrial genomes of alveolates (Dinozoa, Sporozoa and Ciliophora) have ultra-rapid substitution rates and a proneness to unique genomic rearrangements.

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