Genomic insights into marine microalgae

Micaela S. Parker, Thomas Mock, E. Virginia Armbrust

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

132 Citations (Scopus)


Marine eukaryotic photosynthesis is dominated by a diverse group of unicellular organisms collectively called microalgae. Microalgae include cells derived from a primary endosymbiotic event (similar to land plants) and cells derived from subsequent secondary and/or tertiary endosymbiotic events. These latter cells are chimeras of several genomes and dominate primary production in the marine environment. Two consequences of multiple endosymbiotic events include complex targeting mechanisms to allow nuclear-encoded proteins to be imported into the plastid and coordination of enzymes, potentially from disparate originator cells, to form complete metabolic pathways. In this review, we discuss the forces that shaped the genomes of marine microalgae and then discuss some of the metabolic consequences of such a complex evolutionary history. We focus our metabolic discussion on carbon, nitrogen, and iron. We then discuss biomineralization and new evidence for programmed cell death in microalgae. We conclude with a short summary on advances in genetic manipulation of microalgae and thoughts on the future directions of marine algal genomics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)619-645
Number of pages27
JournalAnnual Review of Genetics
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008

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