Genome fragmentation is not confined to the peridinin plastid in dinoflagellates

PLoS One. 2012;7(6):e38809. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0038809. Epub 2012 Jun 18.


When plastids are transferred between eukaryote lineages through series of endosymbiosis, their environment changes dramatically. Comparison of dinoflagellate plastids that originated from different algal groups has revealed convergent evolution, suggesting that the host environment mainly influences the evolution of the newly acquired organelle. Recently the genome from the anomalously pigmented dinoflagellate Karlodinium veneficum plastid was uncovered as a conventional chromosome. To determine if this haptophyte-derived plastid contains additional chromosomal fragments that resemble the mini-circles of the peridin-containing plastids, we have investigated its genome by in-depth sequencing using 454 pyrosequencing technology, PCR and clone library analysis. Sequence analyses show several genes with significantly higher copy numbers than present in the chromosome. These genes are most likely extrachromosomal fragments, and the ones with highest copy numbers include genes encoding the chaperone DnaK(Hsp70), the rubisco large subunit (rbcL), and two tRNAs (trnE and trnM). In addition, some photosystem genes such as psaB, psaA, psbB and psbD are overrepresented. Most of the dnaK and rbcL sequences are found as shortened or fragmented gene sequences, typically missing the 3'-terminal portion. Both dnaK and rbcL are associated with a common sequence element consisting of about 120 bp of highly conserved AT-rich sequence followed by a trnE gene, possibly serving as a control region. Decatenation assays and Southern blot analysis indicate that the extrachromosomal plastid sequences do not have the same organization or lengths as the minicircles of the peridinin dinoflagellates. The fragmentation of the haptophyte-derived plastid genome K. veneficum suggests that it is likely a sign of a host-driven process shaping the plastid genomes of dinoflagellates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blotting, Southern
  • Carotenoids / genetics*
  • Dinoflagellida / genetics*
  • Genome*
  • Plastids*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • peridinin
  • Carotenoids