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Plastid evolution and functions of colourless algae within the Euglenophytes and Dictyochophyceae

The project concentrates on the evolution of non-photosynthesizing plastids in free-living algae. First of all, I wish to know what the main functions of plastids in colourless algae are and, by extension, why are reduced plastids and their genomes kept at all if they do not participate in photosynthesis.

We research both colourless and photosynthesizing representatives of three groups of unicellular algae – Euglenophyta (e.g. Euglena gracilis), Ochrophyta (e.g. diatoms, brown algae) and green algae from the genus Prototheca. In order to learn of their reduced plastids’ functions, we sequence their plastid genomes and transcriptomes. We analyse the obtained data utilising bioinformatic tools which allow the identification of genes in plastid genomes as well as proteins targeted for plastids based on transcriptome data. This permits the reconstruction of metabolic pathways retained in the rudimentary plastids.