Recently, the characterization of brown seaweeds has taken a giant step forward with the decoding of the complete genome of one of these organisms (Ectocarpus siliculosus) by an international consortium led by Dr. Mark Cock from the Biological Station Roscoff (Bretagne, France). Two researchers from the University of Freiburg, Dr. Stefan Rensing and Dr. Daniel Lang (Faculty of Biology), contributed to the analysis of the genome by performing a classification and phylogenetic analysis of the encoded transcription factors as well as an analysis of the seaweeds? genome history.
In many parts of the world’s coastline, if you could walk down the beach and out under the waves, along the seabed you would find yourself in a dense undersea forest. These forests are dominated by a strange group of organisms, the brown seaweeds, which have many unusual properties. Some species of brown algae can grow to great lengths and would tower over you up to heights of more than 60 meters in the undersea forest.
Despite a superficial resemblance to terrestrial plants, brown seaweeds have had a completely different evolutionary history. They are almost as closely related to humans as they are to flowering plants, with whom they share the fact that they are multicellular. Brown seaweeds have atypical metabolisms, making them a very interesting source of novel biomolecules with applications in a range of domains. For example, brown seaweeds have long been exploited for the polysaccharides they produce, which are used in the pharmaceutical, food, and textile industries, and more recently they have been shown to contain a molecule that stimulates the natural defense responses of crop plants, reducing the need for pesticide treatments. The availability of a complete inventory of the genetic information possessed by the brown seaweed Ectocarpus siliculosus will greatly accelerate efforts to understand the biology of these fascinating organisms in the coming years.
Cock J.M., Sterck L., Rouzé P., Scornet D., Allen A.E., Amoutzias G., Anthouard V., Artiguenave F., Aury J.-M., Badger J.H., Beszteri B., Billiau K., Bonnet E., Bothwell J.H.F., Bowler C., Boyen C., Brownlee C., Carrano C.J., Charrier B., Cho G.Y., Coelho S.M., Collén J., Corre E., Delage L., Delaroque N., Dittami S.M., Doulbeau S., Elias M., Farnham G., Gachon C.M.M., Gschloessl B., Heesch S., Jabbari K., Jubin C., Kawai H., Kimura K., Kloareg B., Küpper F.C., Lang D., Le Bail A., Leblanc C., Lerouge P., Lohr M., Lopez P.J., Martens C., Maumus F., Michel G., Miranda-Saavedra D., Morales J., Moreau H., Motomura T., Nagasato C., Napoli C.A., Nelson D.R., Nyvall-Collén P., Peters A.F., Pommier C., Potin P., Poulain J., Quesneville H., Read B., Rensing S.A., Ritter A., Rousvoal S., Samanta M., Samson G., Schroeder D.C., Ségurens B., Strittmatter M., Tonon T., Tregear J., Valentin K., von Dassow P., Yamagishi T., Van de Peer Y., Wincker P. (2010) The Ectocarpus genome and the independent evolution of multicellularity in the brown algae.