The ghost plastid of Choreocolax polysiphoniae

Document Type

Letter to the Editor

Date of Original Version



Parasitism has evolved innumerable times among eukaryotes. Red algal parasites alone have independently evolved over 100 times. The accepted evolutionary paradigm proposes that red algal parasites arise by first infecting a close relative and over time diversifying and infecting more distantly related species. This provides a natural evolutionary gradient of relationships between hosts and parasites that share a photosynthetic common ancestor. Upon infection, the parasite deposits its organelles into the host cell and takes over, spreading through cell-cell connections. Microscopy and molecular studies have demonstrated that the parasites do not maintain their own plastid, but rather abscond with a dedifferentiated host plastid as they pack up spores for dispersal. We sequenced a ~90 kb plastid genome from the parasite Choreocolax polysiphoniae, which has lost genes for light harvesting and photosynthesis. Furthermore, the presence of a native C. polysiphoniae plastid indicates that not all red algal parasites follow the same evolutionary pathway to parasitism. Along with the 167 kb plastid genome of its host, Vertebrata lanosa, these plastids are the first to be sequenced from the Ceramiales.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Journal of Phycology