Tertiary endosymbiosis driven genome evolution in dinoflagellate algae

Su Yoon Hwan, Jeremiah D. Hackett, Frances M. Van Dolah, Tetyana Nosenko, Kristy L. Lidie, Debashish Bhattacharya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

133 Scopus citations


Dinoflagellates are important aquatic primary producers and cause "red tides." The most widespread plastid (photosynthetic organelle) in these algae contains the unique accessory pigment peridinin. This plastid putatively originated via a red algal secondary endosymbiosis and has some remarkable features, the most notable being a genome that is reduced to 1-3 gene minicircles with about 14 genes (out of an original 130-200) remaining in the organelle and a nuclear-encoded proteobacterial Form II Rubisco. The "missing" plastid genes are relocated to the nucleus via a massive transfer unequaled in other photosynthetic eukaryotes. The fate of these characters is unknown in a number of dinoflagellates that have replaced the peridinin plastid through tertiary endosymbiosis. We addressed this issue in the fucoxanthin dinoflagellates (e.g., Karenia brevis) that contain a captured haptophyte plastid. Our multiprotein phylogenetic analyses provide robust support for the haptophyte plastid replacement and are consistent with a red algal origin of the chromalveolate plastid. We then generated an expressed sequence tag (EST) database of 5,138 unique genes from K. brevis and searched for nuclear genes of plastid function. The EST data indicate the loss of the ancestral peridinin plastid characters in K. brevis including the transferred plastid genes and Form II Rubisco. These results underline the remarkable ability of dinoflagellates to remodel their genomes through endosymbiosis and the considerable impact of this process on cell evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1299-1308
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2005


  • Chromalveolates
  • Dinoflagellates
  • EST
  • Karenia brevis
  • Minicircle genes
  • Tertiary endosymbiosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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