Diversity and Evolutionary History of Iron Metabolism Genes in Diatoms

Ryan D Groussman, Micaela S Parker, E Virginia Armbrust
PloS One 2015, 10 (6): e0129081
Ferroproteins arose early in Earth's history, prior to the emergence of oxygenic photosynthesis and the subsequent reduction of bioavailable iron. Today, iron availability limits primary productivity in about 30% of the world's oceans. Diatoms, responsible for nearly half of oceanic primary production, have evolved molecular strategies for coping with variable iron concentrations. Our understanding of the evolutionary breadth of these strategies has been restricted by the limited number of species for which molecular sequence data is available. To uncover the diversity of strategies marine diatoms employ to meet cellular iron demands, we analyzed 367 newly released marine microbial eukaryotic transcriptomes, which include 47 diatom species. We focused on genes encoding proteins previously identified as having a role in iron management: iron uptake (high-affinity ferric reductase, multi-copper oxidase, and Fe(III) permease); iron storage (ferritin); iron-induced protein substitutions (flavodoxin/ferredoxin, and plastocyanin/cytochrome c6) and defense against reactive oxygen species (superoxide dismutases). Homologs encoding the high-affinity iron uptake system components were detected across the four diatom Classes suggesting an ancient origin for this pathway. Ferritin transcripts were also detected in all Classes, revealing a more widespread utilization of ferritin throughout diatoms than previously recognized. Flavodoxin and plastocyanin transcripts indicate possible alternative redox metal strategies. Predicted localization signals for ferredoxin identify multiple examples of gene transfer from the plastid to the nuclear genome. Transcripts encoding four superoxide dismutase metalloforms were detected, including a putative nickel-coordinating isozyme. Taken together, our results suggest that the majority of iron metabolism genes in diatoms appear to be vertically inherited with functional diversity achieved via possible neofunctionalization of paralogs. This refined view of iron use strategies in diatoms elucidates the history of these adaptations, and provides potential molecular markers for determining the iron nutritional status of different diatom species in environmental samples.

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