To gel or not to gel: differential expression of carrageenan-related genes between the gametophyte and tetasporophyte life cycle stages of the red alga Chondrus crispus

Sci Rep. 2020 Jul 13;10(1):11498. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-67728-6.


Chondrus crispus is a marine red alga with sulfated galactans, called carrageenans, in its extracellular matrix. Chondrus has a complex haplodiplontic life cycle, alternating between male and female gametophytes (n) and tetrasporophytes (2n). The Chondrus life cycle stages are isomorphic; however, a major phenotypic difference is that carrageenan composition varies significantly between the tetrasporophytes (mainly lambda-carrageenan) and the gametophytes (mainly kappa/iota-carrageenans). The disparity in carrageenan structures, which confer different chemical properties, strongly suggests differential regulation of carrageenan-active genes between the phases of the Chondrus life cycles. We used a combination of taxonomy, biochemistry and molecular biology to characterize the tetrasporophytes and male and female gametophytes from Chondrus individuals isolated from the rocky seashore off the northern coast of France. Transcriptomic analyses reveal differential gene expression of genes encoding several galactose-sulfurylases, carbohydrate-sulfotransferases, glycosyltransferases, and one family 16 glycoside hydrolase. Differential expression of carrageenan-related genes was found primarily between gametophytes and tetrasporophytes, but also between the male and female gametophytes. The differential expression of these multigenic genes provides a rare glimpse into cell wall biosynthesis in algae. Furthermore, it strongly supports that carrageenan metabolism holds an important role in the physiological differentiation between the isomorphic life cycle stages of Chondrus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carrageenan / genetics*
  • Carrageenan / metabolism
  • Chondrus / genetics*
  • Chondrus / growth & development
  • Galactose / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / genetics
  • Germ Cells, Plant / growth & development
  • Germ Cells, Plant / metabolism
  • Life Cycle Stages / genetics
  • Receptors, Immunologic / genetics*


  • Receptors, Immunologic
  • carrageenan receptor
  • Carrageenan
  • Galactose