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Collaborative Research: Atol: A Phylogenetic And Genomic Investigation Of The Algal Heterokont Tree

Investigators
Anderson, Robert A
Institutions
University of Washington
Start date
2009
End date
2012
Abstract

An award has been made to Robert A. Andersen (Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, West Boothbay Harbor, Maine), Rose Ann Cattolico and Gabrielle Rocap (University of Washington, Seattle, Washington), Robert Jansen, Elizabeth Ruck and Edward Theriot (University of Texas, Austin Texas), Matt Julius (St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, Minnesota), Stefano Draisma (National Herbarium and Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands) and Hiroshi Kawai (Kobe University, Kobe, Japan) to determine the relationships among the heterokont classes by generating two large molecular data sets. Currently, 14 taxonomic classes of heterokont algae are recognized, and they include over 100,000 described species (as many as one million total species has been estimated by experts). Common members include brown seaweeds (e.g., kelp) and the diatoms. Remarkably, despite two centuries of light microscopic study, 50 years of electron microscopic study, and 20 years of molecular investigations, the phylogenetic relationships among the 14 classes remains unknown. DNA sequences of seven nuclear, mitochondrial, and chloroplast genes from 270 heterokont algal species and 30 nonalgal relatives will be obtained and, entire chloroplast genomes from 30 species will be sequenced. The genome sequences will provide important new data for understanding chloroplasts and their origin(s), especially since knowledge in this field is greatly biased toward land plants. Algae serve as the base of the food chain for all organisms that dwell in the ocean and account for approximately half of the global photosynthesis, and therefore they provide approximately 50% of the oxygen we breathe. Members of the heterokont algae vary in morphology from simple unicells to highly complex seaweeds. Brown algae are the principal elements of seaweed beds and these macroalgae have high economic values as food and biomass resources. A number of heterokont algae are harmful to marine life. For example, some algae produce toxins that when concentrated in shellfish kill humans, while other species of heterokonts are well-known fish killers. Conversely, other heterokonts serve as a human food source, they are used in industrial processes and they have found new recognition in the nanotechnology industry. The closest relatives to the heterokont algae are the pseudofungi, which include many plant pathogens, such as the fungus that caused the Irish potato famine, and various molds and mildews. Graduate and undergraduate students and postdoctoral fellows from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds will be supported and trained in a wide diversity of fields, including evolution, genomics, molecular biology, computational biology, and plant biology. The research will be integrated with K-12 educators, public museums and parks using already established programs at several of the participating institutions. A Deep Brown web site already has been established, and it will be greatly expanded as part of this project.

Funding Source
United States Nat'l. Science Fndn.
Project source
View this project
Project number
949211
Categories
Chemical Contaminants
Prevention and Control
Mycotoxins
Food Preparation and Handling