, Volume 229, Issue 3, pp 723–729 | Cite as

An update on carotenoid biosynthesis in algae: phylogenetic evidence for the existence of two classes of phytoene synthase

  • Duc Tran
  • James Haven
  • Wei-Gang Qiu
  • Juergen E. W. PolleEmail author
Short Communication


Carotenoids play crucial roles in structure and function of the photosynthetic apparatus of bacteria, algae, and higher plants. The entry-step reaction to carotenoid biosynthesis is catalyzed by the phytoene synthase (PSY), which is structurally and functionally related in all organisms. A comparative genomic analysis regarding the PSY revealed that the green algae Ostreococcus and Micromonas possess two orthologous copies of the PSY genes, indicating an ancient gene duplication event that produced two classes of PSY in algae. However, some other green algae (Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, Chlorella vulgaris, and Volvox carteri), red algae (Cyanidioschyzon merolae), diatoms (Thalassiosira pseudonana and Phaeodactylum tricornutum), and higher plants retained only one class of the PSY gene whereas the other gene copy was lost in these species. Further, similar to the situation in higher plants recent gene duplications of PSY have occurred for example in the green alga Dunaliella salina/bardawil. As members of the PSY gene families in some higher plants are differentially regulated during development or stress, the discovery of two classes of PSY gene families in some algae suggests that carotenoid biosynthesis in these algae is differentially regulated in response to development and environmental stress as well.


Algae Carotenoid biosynthesis Phytoene synthase 



Phytoene synthase



The authors thank Ms. Jasmeen Kaur for her work on cloning of the psy from D. bardawil. Dr. Polle received partial support for this work through the PSC-CUNY grant no. 65239-0034.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Duc Tran
    • 1
    • 2
  • James Haven
    • 3
  • Wei-Gang Qiu
    • 3
  • Juergen E. W. Polle
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of BiologyBrooklyn College of the City University of New YorkBrooklynUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologySt John’s UniversityNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biological SciencesHunter College of the City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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