, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 585-602

Conserved gene clusters in the highly rearranged chloroplast genomes of Chlamydomonas moewusii and Chlamydomonas reinhardtii

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Abstract

We have extended to about 75 the number of genes mapped on the Chlamydomonas moewusii and Chlamydomonas reinhardtii chloroplast DNAs (cpDNAs) by partial sequencing of the very closely related C. eugametos and C. moewusii cpDNAs and by hybridizations with Chlamydomonas chloroplast gene-specific sequences. Only four of these genes (tscA and three reading frames) have not been identified in any other algal cpDNAs and thus may be specific to Chlamydomonas. Although the C. moewusii and C. reinhardtii cpDNAs differ by complex sequence rearrangements, 38 genes scattered throughout the genome define 12 conserved clusters of closely linked loci. Aside from the rRNA operon, four of these gene clusters share similarity to evolutionarily primitive operons found in other cpDNAs, representing in fact remnants of these operons. Our results thus indicate that most of the ancestral bacterial operons that characterize the chloroplast genome organization of land plants and early-diverging photosynthetic eukaryotes have been disrupted before the emergence of the polyphyletic genus Chlamydomonas. All gene rearrangements between the C. moewusii and C. reinhardtii cpDNAs, with the exception of those accounting for the relocations of atpA, psbI and rbcL, occurred within corresponding regions of the genome. One of these rearrangements seems to have led to disruption of the ancestral region containing rpl23, rpl2, rps19, rpl16, rpl14, rpl5, rps8 and the psaA exon 1. This gene cluster, which bears striking similarity to the Escherichia coli S10 and spc operons, spans a continuous DNA segment in C. reinhardtii, while it maps to two separate fragments in C. moewusii.