Papers in the Biological Sciences


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Khasin, M., R. Cahoon, S, Alvarez, S-I. Eyun, Q. Jia, J-J. Riethoven, R. Beckeris, K.W. Nickerson, and W.R. Riekhof. 2018. Synthesis, secretion, and perception of abscisic acid regulate stress responses in Chlorella sorokiniana. FEMS Letters. Archived in BioRXIV.




Abscisic acid (ABA) is a phytohormone that has been extensively characterized in higher plants for its roles in seed and bud dormancy, leaf abscission, and stress responses. Genomic studies have identified orthologs for ABA-related genes throughout the Viridiplantae, including in unicellular algae; however, the role of ABA in algal physiology has not been characterized, and the existence of such a role has been a matter of dispute. In this study, we demonstrate that ABA is involved in regulating algal stress responses. Chlorella sorokiniana strain UTEX 1230 contains genes orthologous to those of higher plants which are essential for ABA biosynthesis, sensing, and degradation. RNAseq-based transcriptomic studies reveal that treatment with ABA induces dramatic changes in gene expression profiles, including the induction of a subset of genes involved in DNA replication and repair, a phenomenon which has been demonstrated in higher plants. Pretreatment of C. sorokiniana cultures with ABA exerts a protective effect on cell viability in response to ultraviolet radiation. Additionally, C. sorokiniana produces and secretes biologically relevant amounts of both ABA and the oxylipin 12-oxo-phytodienoic acid (OPDA) into the growth medium in response to abiotic stressors. Taken together, these phenomena suggest that ABA signaling evolved as an intercellular stress response signaling molecule in eukaryotic microalgae prior to the evolution of multicellularity and colonization of land.