The Glaucophyta: the blue-green plants in a nutshell

Christopher Jackson, Susan Clayden, Adrian Reyes-Prieto


The Glaucophyta is one of the three major lineages of photosynthetic eukaryotes, together with viridiplants and red algae, united in the presumed monophyletic supergroup Archaeplastida. Glaucophytes constitute a key algal lineage to investigate both the origin of primary plastids and the evolution of algae and plants. Glaucophyte plastids possess exceptional characteristics retained from their cyanobacterial ancestor: phycobilisome antennas, a vestigial peptidoglycan wall, and carboxysome-like bodies. These latter two traits are unique among the Archaeplastida and have been suggested as evidence that the glaucophytes diverged earliest during the diversification of this supergroup. Our knowledge of glaucophytes is limited compared to viridiplants and red algae, and this has restricted our capacity to untangle the early evolution of the Archaeplastida. However, in recent years novel genomic and functional data are increasing our understanding of glaucophyte biology. Diverse comparative studies using information from the nuclear genome of Cyanophora paradoxa and recent transcriptomic data from other glaucophyte species provide support for the common origin of Archaeplastida. Molecular and ultrastructural studies have revealed previously unrecognized diversity in the genera Cyanophora and Glaucocystis. Overall, a series of recent findings are modifying our perspective of glaucophyte diversity and providing fresh approaches to investigate the basic biology of this rare algal group in detail.


Glaucophyta; Cyanophora; Archaeplastida; primary plastids; cyanelle

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