Of all the eukaryotic algal groups, diatoms make the most substantial contributions to photosynthesis in the contemporary ocean. Understanding the biological innovations that have occurred in the diatom chloroplast may provide us with explanations to the ecological success of this lineage and clues as to how best to exploit the biology of these organisms for biotechnology. In this paper, we use multi-species transcriptome datasets to compare chloroplast metabolism pathways in diatoms to other algal lineages. We identify possible diatom-specific innovations in chloroplast metabolism, including the completion of tocopherol synthesis via a chloroplast-targeted tocopherol cyclase, a complete chloroplast ornithine cycle, and chloroplast-targeted proteins involved in iron acquisition and CO2
concentration not shared between diatoms and their closest relatives in the stramenopiles. We additionally present a detailed investigation of the chloroplast metabolism of the oil-producing diatom Fistulifera solaris
, which is of industrial interest for biofuel production. These include modified amino acid and pyruvate hub metabolism that might enhance acetyl-coA production for chloroplast lipid biosynthesis and the presence of a chloroplast-localised squalene synthesis pathway unknown in other diatoms. Our data provides valuable insights into the biological adaptations underpinning an ecologically critical lineage, and how chloroplast metabolism can change even at a species level in extant algae.
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