Functional characterization of the plastidic phosphate translocator gene family from the thermo-acidophilic red alga Galdieria sulphuraria reveals specific adaptations of primary carbon partitioning in green plants and red algae

Plant Physiol. 2008 Nov;148(3):1487-96. doi: 10.1104/pp.108.129478. Epub 2008 Sep 17.


In chloroplasts of green plants and algae, CO(2) is assimilated into triose-phosphates (TPs); a large part of these TPs is exported to the cytosol by a TP/phosphate translocator (TPT), whereas some is stored in the plastid as starch. Plastidial phosphate translocators have evolved from transport proteins of the host endomembrane system shortly after the origin of chloroplasts by endosymbiosis. The red microalga Galdieria sulphuraria shares three conserved putative orthologous transport proteins with the distantly related seed plants and green algae. However, red algae, in contrast to green plants, store starch in their cytosol, not inside plastids. Hence, due to the lack of a plastidic starch pool, a larger share of recently assimilated CO(2) needs to be exported to the cytosol. We thus hypothesized that red algal transporters have distinct substrate specificity in comparison to their green orthologs. This hypothesis was tested by expression of the red algal genes in yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and assessment of their substrate specificities and kinetic constants. Indeed, two of the three red algal phosphate translocator candidate orthologs have clearly distinct substrate specificities when compared to their green homologs. GsTPT (for G. sulphuraria TPT) displays very narrow substrate specificity and high affinity; in contrast to green plant TPTs, 3-phosphoglyceric acid is poorly transported and thus not able to serve as a TP/3-phosphoglyceric acid redox shuttle in vivo. Apparently, the specific features of red algal primary carbon metabolism promoted the evolution of a highly efficient export system with high affinities for its substrates. The low-affinity TPT of plants maintains TP levels sufficient for starch biosynthesis inside of chloroplasts, whereas the red algal TPT is optimized for efficient export of TP from the chloroplast.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Carbon / metabolism*
  • Chloroplast Proteins
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / physiology*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Multigene Family*
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / physiology*
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Plastids*
  • Rhodophyta / genetics*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics
  • Trioses / metabolism


  • Chloroplast Proteins
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Plant Proteins
  • Trioses
  • Carbon

Associated data

  • GENBANK/EU853171
  • GENBANK/EU853172
  • GENBANK/EU853173