Signatures of Transcription Factor Evolution and the Secondary Gain of Red Algae Complexity

Genes (Basel). 2021 Jul 9;12(7):1055. doi: 10.3390/genes12071055.


Red algae (Rhodophyta) belong to the superphylum Archaeplastida, and are a species-rich group exhibiting diverse morphologies. Theory has it that the unicellular red algal ancestor went through a phase of genome contraction caused by adaptation to extreme environments. More recently, the classes Porphyridiophyceae, Bangiophyceae, and Florideophyceae experienced genome expansions, coinciding with an increase in morphological complexity. Transcription-associated proteins (TAPs) regulate transcription, show lineage-specific patterns, and are related to organismal complexity. To better understand red algal TAP complexity and evolution, we investigated the TAP family complement of uni- and multi-cellular red algae. We found that the TAP family complement correlates with gain of morphological complexity in the multicellular Bangiophyceae and Florideophyceae, and that abundance of the C2H2 zinc finger transcription factor family may be associated with the acquisition of morphological complexity. An expansion of heat shock transcription factors (HSF) occurred within the unicellular Cyanidiales, potentially as an adaption to extreme environmental conditions.

Keywords: Rhodophyta; evolution; morphological complexity; multicellularity; transcription factor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genome*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Rhodophyta / chemistry
  • Rhodophyta / classification*
  • Rhodophyta / genetics*
  • Rhodophyta / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Transcription Factors