A genomic analysis using RNA-Seq to investigate the adaptation of the psychrophilic diatom Fragilariopsis cylindrus to the polar environment

Strauss, Jan (2012) A genomic analysis using RNA-Seq to investigate the adaptation of the psychrophilic diatom Fragilariopsis cylindrus to the polar environment. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

[thumbnail of 2012StraussJPhD.pdf]
Download (11MB) | Preview


Diatoms are unicellular photosynthetic eukaryotes with a silicate cell wall. They often dominate polar marine ecosystems, driving the major biogeochemical cycles in these areas. The obligate psychrophilic diatom Fragilariopsis cylindrus is a keystone species in the Southern Ocean. It thrives both in open waters and sea ice and has become a model for studying eukaryotic microalgal adaptations to polar marine conditions. The aim of this thesis was to identify how the genome of F. cylindrus has evolved to cope with marine environmental conditions of the Southern Ocean. To identify key genes, comparative genomics, high-throughput transcriptome sequencing and reverse genetics were applied. Comparative genomics with the sequenced mesophilic diatoms Phaeodactylum tricornutum and Thalassiosira pseudonana was combined with genome-wide RNA-Seq transcriptome analysis, leading to the discovery a new bacteria-like rhodopsin not present in other sequenced diatoms. The characterisation of a bacteria-like rhodopsin in F. cylindrus was conducted by applying reverse genetics tools.
The genome was characterised by a low G+C content, which affected codon usage. High sequence polymorphism resulted in pronounced unequal expression of putative heterozygous allelic gene copies in response to six different conditions. RNA-Seq detected transcriptional activity for 95% of the 27,137 predicted genes and > 4 fold expression changes between 55% of putative alleles. The most significant transcriptional changes were detected during prolonged darkness affecting 70% of genes and 30% of RNA-Seq reads mapped to unannotated regions of the genome. Two rhodopsin alleles showed unequal bi-allelic expression in response to iron starvation and heterologous expression in Xenopus laevis oocytes experimentally confirmed light-driven proton pumping for the iron-induced rhodopsin allele, suggesting significance for the adaptation of F. cylindrus to environmental conditions of the Southern Ocean.
These data show how the polar environment can shape the genome of a eukaryotic phytoplankton in unprecedented detail. High numbers of species-specific genes resulting in expansion of gene and protein families, low G+C likely enabling efficient translation at low temperatures and a high degree of heterozygosity combined with unequal bi-allelic expression, may provide an adaptive strategy to polar conditions by conferring metabolic flexibility and capacity to adapt to a rapidly changing environment.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: Users 2593 not found.
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2014 14:42
Last Modified: 27 Feb 2014 14:42
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/47857


Downloads per month over past year

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item