PCP gene family in Symbiodinium from Hippopus hippopus: low levels of concerted evolution, isoform diversity, and spectral tuning of chromophores

Mol Biol Evol. 2003 Dec;20(12):2143-54. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msg233. Epub 2003 Aug 29.


Photosynthetic dinoflagellates have evolved unique water-soluble light harvesting complexes known as peridinin-chlorophyll a-binding proteins (PCPs). Most species of dinoflagellates express either 14 to 17 kDa or 32 to 35 kDa mature PCP apoproteins and do so in stable combinations of isoforms that differ in isoelectric point (pI). The source (posttranslational modification, protein degradation, or genetic) and functional significance of PCP isoform variation have remained unclear. PCPs are encoded by multigene families. However, previous reports conflict over the diversity of PCP genes within gene arrays. We present the first genomic characterization of the PCP gene family from a symbiotic dinoflagellate. Symbiodinium from the Pacific bivalve Hippopus hippopus (203) contains genes for 33 kDa PCP apoproteins that are organized in tandem arrays like those of free-living dinoflagellates Amphidinium carterae, Lingulodinium (Gonyaulax) polyedra, and Heterocapsa pygmaea. The Symbiodinium 203 PCP cassette consists of 1,098-bp coding regions separated by approximately 900-bp spacers. The spacers contain a conserved upstream sequence similar to the promoter in L. polyedra. Surprisingly, sequences of cloned coding regions are not identical, and can differ at up to 2.2% of the nucleotide sites. Sequence variation is found at both silent and nonsilent sites, and analysis of cDNA clones indicate that the variation is present in the mRNA pool. We propose that this variation represents nucleotide diversity among PCP gene copies that are evolving under low-level concerted evolution. Interestingly, the predicted proteins have pIs that are within the range of those published for other species of Symbiodinium. Thus, posttranslational modifications are not necessary to explain the multiple PCP isoforms. We have also identified several polymorphic sites that may influence spectral absorption tuning of chromophores.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Carotenoids / chemistry
  • Carotenoids / genetics*
  • Dinoflagellida / classification
  • Dinoflagellida / genetics*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Genetic Variation
  • Isoelectric Point
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Weight
  • Mollusca / genetics
  • Multigene Family
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Protozoan Proteins / chemistry
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics*
  • Symbiosis


  • Protein Isoforms
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • peridinin chlorophyll-a protein, Dinophyceae
  • Carotenoids