Genome of the glacier alga Ancylonema and its insights into the evolution of streptophyte life on ice and land

ID: 613 / 378

Category: Abstract

Track: Pending

Proposed Symposium Title: Genome of the glacier alga Ancylonema and its insights into the evolution of streptophyte life on ice and land


Alexander M. C. Bowles1,2,3, Tom A. Williams2, Philip C. J. Donoghue2, Douglas A. Campbell4, Christopher J. Williamson1

Affiliations: 1 School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, University Road, Bristol, BS8 1SS, UK 2 Bristol Palaeobiology Group, School of Biological Sciences and School of Earth Sciences, Life Sciences Building, University of Bristol, Bristol, BS8 1TQ, UK 3 Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3RB, UK 4 Department of Biology, Mount Allison University, Sackville, NB, Canada


Contemporary glaciers and ice sheets are home to communities of streptophyte glacier algae that must balance their requirements for photosynthesis and growth with tolerance of extremes in temperature, desiccation and UV radiation. These same environmental challenges have been hypothesized as the driving force behind the evolution of land plants from streptophyte algal ancestors in the Cryogenian (720–635 million years ago). Here, we sequence, assemble and analyze the metagenome-assembled genome (MAG) of the glacier alga Ancylonema nordenskiöldii to investigate its adaptations to life in ice, and whether this represents a vestige of Cryogenian anydrophyte exaptations. Phylogenetic analysis confirms the placement of glacier algae within the sister lineage to land plants, Zygnematophyceae. The MAG is characterized by an expansion of genes involved in high irradiance and UV light tolerance, whilst lineage-specific diversification led to the novel screening pigmentation of glacier algae. We found no support for the hypothesis of a common genomic basis for adaptations to ice and to land in streptophytes. Comparative genomic analysis revealed that reductive genome evolution in the ancestor of Zygnematophyceae correlates with their reductive morphological evolution. This first genome-scale data for glacier algae supports an Ancylonema-specific adaptation to the cryosphere, as well as shedding light on the genome evolution of land plants and Zygnematophyceae.

Symposia selection: 40, 145, 146

Key words: Algal evolution, Comparative genomics, Genome evolution, Phylogenetics, Plant evolution