Abstract: The evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis and the consequential rise in atmospheric oxygen levels drastically altered biology. The increase in global primary productivity and the availability of oxygen for novel biochemistry caused a shift in evolutionary trajectories resulting in the wealth of diversity we associate with life. The genes responsible for oxygenic photosynthesis and assimilation of carbon from CO2 also had direct influence on the evolutionary landscape. Endosymbiosis accompanied by endosymbiotic gene transfer has spread the ability to photosynthesize between kingdoms, from bacteria to eukaryotes, and across Eukarya.
Of the resulting organisms capable of oxygenic photosynthesis, the algae represent one of the most diverse, complex, and understudied groups. Over 100 whole-genome sequences from algae are either published or soon to be published. The rapidly increasing availability of these fundamental resources are precipitating a paradigm shift in the way we understand algal biology, but over 50% of proteins are of unknown function, and the reliability of functional annotations for the remainder is unknown.
Post-genomic resources, such as transcriptomics, can accelerate our ability to achieve systems-wide understanding as to how organisms respond and adapt to biotic and abiotic stresses. The goals for the foreseeable future are integrating and leveraging available genomic and post-genomic data to decipher protein function, prioritizing targets for experimental characterization, and incorporating that knowledge into a functional framework of each system. In this seminar, I will provide an overview of the present functional landscape, discuss specific tools and resources we are developing, and address some of the challenges we face.