Orthologs and paralogs of regA, a master cell-type regulatory gene in Volvox carteri

Curr Genet. 2006 Jul;50(1):61-72. doi: 10.1007/s00294-006-0071-4. Epub 2006 Apr 19.


The multicellular green alga Volvox carteri forma nagariensis has only two cell types: terminally differentiated somatic cells and reproductive cells. The regA gene maintains the terminally differentiated state of the somatic cells, apparently by repressing transcription of genes required for chloroplast biogenesis and thereby preventing cell growth. Because the RegA protein sequence bore no obvious motifs, we are attempting to identify regions of functional importance by searching for strongly conserved domains in RegA orthologs. Here we report the cloning and characterization of regA from the most closely related known taxon, V. carteri f. kawasakiensis. Given the closeness of the relationship between these two formas, their regA genes are surprisingly different: they differ in the number of introns and by several lengthy indels, and they encode proteins that are only 80% identical. We also serendipitously discovered a paralogous gene immediately upstream of each regA locus. The two regA genes, both upstream paralogs and several genes in Chlamydomonas (the closest unicellular relative of Volvox) encode a conserved region (the VARL domain) that contains what appears to be a DNA-binding SAND domain. This discovery has opened up a new avenue for exploring how regA and the terminally differentiated state that it controls evolved.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algal Proteins / chemistry
  • Algal Proteins / genetics*
  • Algal Proteins / metabolism
  • Alternative Splicing
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Chlorophyta / genetics*
  • Chlorophyta / metabolism
  • Conserved Sequence
  • DNA, Algal / genetics
  • Exons
  • Gene Library
  • Genes, Regulator*
  • Introns
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nucleic Acid Probes / chemistry
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid
  • Volvox / genetics*


  • Algal Proteins
  • DNA, Algal
  • Nucleic Acid Probes