Loss of the transit peptide and an increase in gene expression of an ancestral chloroplastic carbonic anhydrase were instrumental in the evolution of the cytosolic C4 carbonic anhydrase in Flaveria

Plant Physiol. 2009 Jul;150(3):1515-29. doi: 10.1104/pp.109.137513. Epub 2009 May 15.


C(4) photosynthesis has evolved multiple times from ancestral C(3) species. Carbonic anhydrase (CA) catalyzes the reversible hydration of CO(2) and is involved in both C(3) and C(4) photosynthesis; however, its roles and the intercellular and intracellular locations of the majority of its activity differ between C(3) and C(4) plants. To understand the molecular changes underlying the evolution of the C(4) pathway, three cDNAs encoding distinct beta-CAs (CA1, CA2, and CA3) were isolated from the leaves of the C(3) plant Flaveria pringlei. The phylogenetic relationship of the F. pringlei proteins with other embryophyte beta-CAs was reconstructed. Gene expression and protein localization patterns showed that CA1 and CA3 demonstrate high expression in leaves and their products localize to the chloroplast, while CA2 expression is low in all organs examined and encodes a cytosolic enzyme. The roles of the F. pringlei enzymes were considered in light of these results, other angiosperm beta-CAs, and Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) "omics" data. All three F. pringlei CAs have orthologs in the closely related C(4) plant Flaveria bidentis, and comparisons of ortholog sequences, expression patterns, and intracellular locations of their products indicated that CA1 and CA2 have maintained their ancestral role in C(4) plants, whereas modifications to the C(3) CA3 gene led to the evolution of the CA isoform that catalyzes the first step in the C(4) photosynthetic pathway. These changes included the loss of the chloroplast transit peptide and an increase in gene expression, which resulted in the high levels of CA activity seen in the cytosol of C(4) mesophyll cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Carbonic Anhydrases / analysis
  • Carbonic Anhydrases / chemistry
  • Carbonic Anhydrases / genetics*
  • Chloroplasts / enzymology*
  • Cytosol / enzymology*
  • DNA, Complementary / chemistry
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Flaveria / enzymology*
  • Flaveria / genetics
  • Gene Expression
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Photosynthesis
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Proteins / analysis
  • Plant Proteins / chemistry
  • Plant Proteins / genetics*
  • Protein Isoforms / analysis
  • Protein Isoforms / chemistry
  • Protein Isoforms / genetics
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • DNA, Complementary
  • Plant Proteins
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Carbonic Anhydrases

Associated data

  • GENBANK/ACF78806
  • GENBANK/ACF82348
  • GENBANK/ACF86418
  • GENBANK/ACF88455
  • GENBANK/AK243989
  • GENBANK/AK287413
  • GENBANK/DQ273586
  • GENBANK/DQ273587
  • GENBANK/P46281