The complete chloroplast genome of the chlorarachniophyte Bigelowiella natans: evidence for independent origins of chlorarachniophyte and euglenid secondary endosymbionts.
Chlorarachniophytes are amoeboflagellate cercozoans that acquired a plastid by secondary endosymbiosis. Chlorarachniophytes are the last major group of algae for which there is no completely sequenced plastid genome. Here we describe the 69.2-kbp chloroplast genome of the model chlorarachniophyte Bigelowiella natans. The genome is highly reduced in size compared with plastids of other photosynthetic algae and is closer in size to genomes of several nonphotosynthetic plastids. Unlike nonphotosynthetic plastids, however, the B. natans chloroplast genome has not sustained a massive loss of genes, and it retains nearly all of the functional photosynthesis-related genes represented in the genomes of other green algae. Instead, the genome is highly compacted and gene dense. The genes are organized with a strong strand bias, and several unusual rearrangements and inversions also characterize the genome; notably, an inversion in the small-subunit rRNA gene, a translocation of 3 genes in the major ribosomal protein operon, and the fragmentation of the cluster encoding the large photosystem proteins PsaA and PsaB. The chloroplast endosymbiont is known to be a green alga, but its evolutionary origin and relationship to other primary and secondary green plastids has been much debated. A recent hypothesis proposes that the endosymbionts of chlorarachniophytes and euglenids share a common origin (the Cabozoa hypothesis). We inferred phylogenies using individual and concatenated gene sequences for all genes in the genome. Concatenated gene phylogenies show a relationship between the B. natans plastid and the ulvophyte-trebouxiophyte-chlorophyte clade of green algae to the exclusion of Euglena. The B. natans plastid is thus not closely related to that of Euglena, which suggests that plastids originated independently in these 2 groups and the Cabozoa hypothesis is false.