Evolution of salt tolerance in a laboratory reared population of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii

Marie-Mathilde Perrineau, Ehud Zelzion, Jeferson Gross, Dana C Price, Jeffrey Boyd, Debashish Bhattacharya

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87 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding the genetic underpinnings of adaptive traits in microalgae is important for the study of evolution and for applied uses. We used long-term selection under a regime of serial transfers with haploid populations of the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii raised in liquid TAP medium containing 200 mM NaCl. After 1255 generations, evolved salt (ES) populations could grow as rapidly in high salt medium as progenitor cells (progenitor light [PL]). Transcriptome data were analysed to elucidate the basis of salt tolerance in ES cells when compared with PL cells and to cells incubated for 48 h in high salt medium (progenitor salt [PS], the short-term acclimation response). These data demonstrate that evolved and short-term acclimation responses to salt stress differ fundamentally from each other. Progenitor salt cells exhibit well-known responses to salt stress such as reduction in photosynthesis, upregulation of glycerophospholipid signaling, and upregulation of the transcription and translation machinery. In contrast, ES cells show downregulation of genes involved in the stress response and in transcription/translation. Our results suggest that gene-rich mixotrophic lineages such as C. reinhardtii may be able to adapt rapidly to abiotic stress engendered either by a rapidly changing climate or physical vicariance events that isolate populations in stressful environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1755-66
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number6
Early online date23 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2014


  • Acclimatization
  • Biological Evolution
  • Chlamydomonas reinhardtii
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Glycerophospholipids
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Photosynthesis
  • Plant Proteins
  • Salt-Tolerance
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Transcriptome
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.


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