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Puzzling plankton yield secrets to role in evolution/global photosynthesis

uced their appetite for ironan adaptive process in Ostreococcus.

"This work builds on the communitys emerging understanding about how carbon fixation is carried out by picoplankton," said Brian Palenik, lead author and researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego.

"From an applied perspective, we are learning some of the tricks nature has employed to engineer an extremely small eukaryote to thrive in naturewhich may well find applications in bioengineering," said Palenik. "It was particularly interesting to see the predicted use of selenium-containing enzymes as one of the tricks to maintain such tiny cells. There are many mechanisms that can account for species formation in photosynthetic phytoplankton, and this is just one of the major pieces to this long-standing puzzle for biologists."

"Assimilation of atmospheric CO2 by marine phytoplankton is a global-scale process that is responsible for about half of the biosphere net primary production," said collaborator and co-author Herv Moreau of the Pierre & Marie Curie University Oceanic Observatory in Banyuls-sur-mer, France. "This active absorption of hundreds of millions of tons of carbon per day is essential for maintaining the control of the planets climate by counteracting greenhouse effects due to human activities. Clearly, this storage capacity is affected by changes in the photosynthetic efficiency of the algae, which in turn is linked to the environmental conditions experienced by these organisms in their environment."

The ecology of picoeukaryotes, said Moreau, has thus become an intense field of investigation over the last decade as these microalgae, although representing a minor component of the plankton, nevertheless play major roles in oceanic biomass production.

"With even more picoplankton genomes in the sequencing queue at DOE JGI, were positioned to secure a better grasp on the mechanisms of species ad
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Contact: David Gilbert
gilbert21@llnl.gov
925-296-5643
DOE/Joint Genome Institute
30-Apr-2007


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