A photosynthetic animal…some background on Ahmed Moustafa’s PNAS paper
I asked Ahmed to provide a little background info on his recent PNAS paper when I found out how novel the research was (a photosynthetic animal).
From Ahmed: This work provides for the first time evidence for a horizontal gene transfer (HGT) of a nuclear gene (psbO; photosystem II manganese-stabilizing protein) from the stramenopile algal prey Vaucheria litorea to the nucleus of the predatory sea slug Elysia chlorotica. Elysia is renowned as a “solar-powered” sea slug, a marine species that is able to steal and harness the power of photosynthesis from an algal food source.
We are currently pursuing genome-wide analyses to determine the extent of HGTs that have taken place in this remarkable animal to plant transition. These data will help elucidate the key steps in the evolution of the genome and the transcriptome that enable the establishment of photosynthesis in a novel system. The sea slug also provides a potential source of photosynthetic cell lines for broader applications such as alternative energy and biofuel sources.
erik’s note: image from Ahmed’s paper (Rumpho et al., PNAS 2008):
A. E. chlorotica’s larval stage
B. Slug stage, ingesting photsynthetic V. litorea
C. Young adult after feeding on V. litorea
D. Adult sea slug (very very green)
erik’s update: ahmed’s paper got the cover!