Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 72, Issue 2, pp 204–214

Amino Acid Compositional Shifts During Streptophyte Transitions to Terrestrial Habitats


DOI: 10.1007/s00239-010-9416-1

Cite this article as:
Jobson, R.W. & Qiu, YL. J Mol Evol (2011) 72: 204. doi:10.1007/s00239-010-9416-1


Across the streptophyte lineage, which includes charophycean algae and embryophytic plants, there have been at least four independent transitions to the terrestrial habitat. One of these involved the evolution of embryophytes (bryophytes and tracheophytes) from a charophycean ancestor, while others involved the earliest branching lineages, containing the monotypic genera Mesostigma and Chlorokybus, and within the Klebsormidiales and Zygnematales lineages. To overcome heat, water stress, and increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation, which must have accompanied these transitions, adaptive mechanisms would have been required. During periods of dehydration and/or desiccation, proteomes struggle to maintain adequate cytoplasmic solute concentrations. The increased usage of charged amino acids (DEHKR) may be one way of maintaining protein hydration, while increased use of aromatic residues (FHWY) protects proteins and nucleic acids by absorbing damaging UV, with both groups of residues thought to be important for the stabilization of protein structures. To test these hypotheses we examined amino acid sequences of orthologous proteins representing both mitochondrion- and plastid-encoded proteomes across streptophytic lineages. We compared relative differences within categories of amino acid residues and found consistent patterns of amino acid compositional fluxuation in extra-membranous regions that correspond with episodes of terrestrialization: positive change in usage frequency for residues with charged side-chains, and aromatic residues of the light-capturing chloroplast proteomes. We also found a general decrease in the usage frequency of hydrophobic, aliphatic, and small residues. These results suggest that amino acid compositional shifts in extra-membrane regions of plastid and mitochondrial proteins may represent biochemical adaptations that allowed green plants to colonize the land.


StreptophyteAdaptationAmino acidEmbryophyteTerrestrialization

Supplementary material

239_2010_9416_MOESM1_ESM.doc (372 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 373 kb)

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.National Herbarium of New South Wales, Royal Botanic Gardens and DomainSydneyAustralia