Ulva prolifera, a typical green-tide-forming alga, can accumulate a large biomass in a relatively short time period, suggesting that photosynthesis in this organism, particularly its carbon fixation pathway, must be very efficient. Green algae are known to generally perform C3 photosynthesis, but recent metabolic labeling and genome sequencing data suggest that they may also perform C4 photosynthesis, so C4 photosynthesis might be more wide-spread than previously anticipated. Both C3 and C4 photosynthesis genes were found in U. prolifera by transcriptome sequencing. We also discovered the key enzymes of C4 metabolism based on functional analysis, such as pyruvate orthophosphate dikinase (PPDK), phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase (PEPC), and phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PCK). To investigate whether the alga operates a C4-like pathway, the expression of rbcL and PPDK and their enzyme activities were measured under various forms and intensities of stress (differing levels of salinity, light intensity, and temperature). The expression of rbcL and PPDK and their enzyme activities were higher under adverse circumstances. However, under conditions of desiccation, the expression of rbcL and ribulose-1, 5-biphosphate carboxylase (RuBPCase) activity was lower, whereas that of PPDK was higher. These results suggest that elevated PPDK activity may alter carbon metabolism and lead to a partial operation of C4-type carbon metabolism in U. prolifera, probably contributing to its wide distribution and massive, repeated blooms in the Yellow Sea
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