Evolution of heterotrophy in chrysophytes as reflected by comparative transcriptomics

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Abstract

Shifts in the nutritional mode between phototrophy, mixotrophy and heterotrophy are a widespread phenomenon in the evolution of eukaryotic diversity. The transition between nutritional modes is particularly pronounced in chrysophytes and occurred independently several times through parallel evolution. Thus, chrysophytes provide a unique opportunity for studying the molecular basis of nutritional diversification and of the accompanying pathway reduction and degradation of plastid structures. In order to analyze the succession in switching the nutritional mode from mixotrophy to heterotrophy, we compared the transcriptome of the mixotrophic Poterioochromonas malhamensis with the transcriptomes of three obligate heterotrophic species of Ochromonadales. We used the transcriptome of P. malhamensis as a reference for plastid reduction in the heterotrophic taxa. The analyzed heterotrophic taxa were in different stages of plastid reduction. We investigated the reduction of several photosynthesis related pathways e.g. the xanthophyll cycle, the mevalonate pathway, the shikimate pathway and the tryptophan biosynthesis as well as the reduction of plastid structures and postulate a presumable succession of pathway reduction and degradation of accompanying structures.

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