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Foflonker, F, Ananyev G, Qiu H, Morrison A, Palenik B, Dismukes GC, Bhattacharya D.  2016.  The unexpected extremophile: Tolerance to fluctuating salinity in the green alga Picochlorum. Algal Research-Biomass Biofuels and Bioproducts. 16:465-472.   10.1016/j.algal.2016.04.003   AbstractWebsite

The broadly halotolerant green alga, Picochlorum strain SENEW3, has a highly reduced nuclear genome of 13.5 Mbp that encodes only 7367 genes. It was isolated from a shallow, mesophilic brackish-water lagoon that experiences extreme changes in temperature, light, and in particular, salinity (freshwater to 3-fold seawater). We challenged Picochlorum cells with high or low salinity shock and used transcriptomic and chlorophyll fluorescence analyses to elucidate tolerance to salinity fluctuation. The transcriptome analysis showed that one-half of the coding regions are differentially expressed in response to salinity changes. In addition, a significant number of co-expressed genes (usually from different metabolic pathways) are co-localized in the genome, forming 2-10 gene clusters. Whereas the overall salt stress response in Picochlorum SENEW3 is similar to that in other salt-tolerant algae, the "operon-like" structure in this species likely contributes to rapid recovery during salinity fluctuation. In summary, our work elucidates how evolutionary forces play out in a streamlined genome. Picochlorum SENEW3 relies on a broad array of adaptations from the reliance on horizontally transferred adaptive genes to the co-localization of stress response genes and a robust photosystem II to deal with a fluctuating environment. These attributes make Picochlorum SENEW3 of great biotechnological interest. (C) 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Dufresne, A, Ostrowski M, Scanlan DJ, Garczarek L, Mazard S, Palenik BP, Paulsen IT, de Marsac NT, Wincker P, Dossat C, Ferriera S, Johnson J, Post AF, Hess WR, Partensky F.  2008.  Unraveling the genomic mosaic of a ubiquitous genus of marine cyanobacteria. Genome Biology. 9   10.1186/gb-2008-9-5-r90   AbstractWebsite

Background: The picocyanobacterial genus Synechococcus occurs over wide oceanic expanses, having colonized most available niches in the photic zone. Large scale distribution patterns of the different Synechococcus clades (based on 16S rRNA gene markers) suggest the occurrence of two major lifestyles ('opportunists'/'specialists'), corresponding to two distinct broad habitats ('coastal'/'open ocean'). Yet, the genetic basis of niche partitioning is still poorly understood in this ecologically important group. Results: Here, we compare the genomes of 11 marine Synechococcus isolates, representing 10 distinct lineages. Phylogenies inferred from the core genome allowed us to refine the taxonomic relationships between clades by revealing a clear dichotomy within the main subcluster, reminiscent of the two aforementioned lifestyles. Genome size is strongly correlated with the cumulative lengths of hypervariable regions (or 'islands'). One of these, encompassing most genes encoding the light-harvesting phycobilisome rod complexes, is involved in adaptation to changes in light quality and has clearly been transferred between members of different Synechococcus lineages. Furthermore, we observed that two strains (RS9917 and WH5701) that have similar pigmentation and physiology have an unusually high number of genes in common, given their phylogenetic distance. Conclusion: We propose that while members of a given marine Synechococcus lineage may have the same broad geographical distribution, local niche occupancy is facilitated by lateral gene transfers, a process in which genomic islands play a key role as a repository for transferred genes. Our work also highlights the need for developing picocyanobacterial systematics based on genome-derived parameters combined with ecological and physiological data.

Palenik, B, Henson SE.  1997.  The use of amides and other organic nitrogen sources by the phytoplankton Emiliania huxleyi. Limnology and Oceanography. 42:1544-1551. AbstractWebsite

Although dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) is beginning to be seen as a potentially important nitrogen source for phytoplankton, much remains to be learned about its components and their utilization. Emiliania huxleyi, a cosmopolitan eukaryotic phytoplankton species abundant in oligotrophic oceans and during blooms in some coastal regions, was screened for use of various DON compounds. Hypoxanthine and other purines support the nickel-dependent growth of most E. huxleyi strains. Acetamide and formamide but not longer chain aliphatic amides were found to be excellent nitrogen sources for growth; other phytoplankton were also found to utilize acetamide but not formamide. In E. huxleyi, small amides are transported into the cell followed by degradation to ammonia, possibly by amide-specific enzymes. The related molecules hydroxyurea and thiourea were toxic to the cells and caused an increase in fluorescence consistent with blockage of photosystem II. This fluorescence increase was inhibited by urea and acetamide, suggesting transport of hydroxyurea, thiourea, urea, and acetamide by the same or closely related transporters.

Paerl, RW, Bouget F-Y, Lozano J-C, Verge V, Schatt P, Allen EE, Palenik B, Azam F.  2016.  Use of plankton-derived vitamin B1 precursors, especially thiazole-related precursor, by key marine picoeukaryotic phytoplankton. ISME J. : The Author(s)   10.1038/ismej.2016.145   Abstract

Several cosmopolitan marine picoeukaryotic phytoplankton are B1 auxotrophs requiring exogenous vitamin B1 or precursor to survive. From genomic evidence, representatives of picoeukaryotic phytoplankton (Ostreococcus and Micromonas spp.) were predicted to use known thiazole and pyrimidine B1 precursors to meet their B1 demands, however, recent culture-based experiments could not confirm this assumption. We hypothesized these phytoplankton strains could grow on precursors alone, but required a thiazole-related precursor other the well-known and extensively tested 4-methyl-5-thiazoleethanol. This hypothesis was tested using bioassays and co-cultures of picoeukaryotic phytoplankton and bacteria. We found that specific B1-synthesizing proteobacteria and phytoplankton are sources of a yet-to-be chemically identified thiazole-related precursor(s) that, along with pyrimidine B1 precursor 4-amino-5-hydroxymethyl-2-methylpyrimidine, can support growth of Ostreococcus spp. (also Micromonas spp.) without B1. We additionally found that the B1-synthesizing plankton do not require contact with picoeukaryotic phytoplankton cells to produce thiazole-related precursor(s). Experiments with wild-type and genetically engineered Ostreococcus lines revealed that the thiazole kinase, ThiM, is required for growth on precursors, and that thiazole-related precursor(s) accumulate to appreciable levels in the euphotic ocean. Overall, our results point to thiazole-related B1 precursors as important micronutrients promoting the survival of abundant phytoplankton influencing surface ocean production and biogeochemical cycling.