Although genome data from unicellular marine eukaryotes is sparse, sequences from several supergroups have initiated an era of genome-enabled research aimed at understanding gene function, evolution, and adaptation in non-traditional model protists. Trends in genomic content within and between different lineages are emerging, including phylogenetically anomalous patterns, sometimes resulting from horizontal gene transfer. Some such genes have nutrient uptake and metabolism roles suggesting that bacterial and eukaryotic microbes have similar cellular-mineral-environmental constraints. Many 'accessory genome' components are of unknown function, but low gene copy numbers combined with small genomes make protists ideal for systems biology. Cultured and uncultured protists are providing insights to ecology, ancestral features and the role of cooption in development of complex traits. Various protists harbor features important in sexuality and multicellularity once believed to have originated in metazoans or other multicellular taxa.
Copyright © 2010. Published by Elsevier Ltd.