SEA LETTUCE THIEF GETS ITS GENOME SEQUENCED
Sea lettuce, a fast-growing seaweed that spawns massive “green tides,” is a prolific thief, according to researchers, who for the first time have sequenced its genome.
Fatima Foflonker, a postdoctoral researcher, and Bhattacharya were part of an international team that analyzed Ulva‘s recently determined genome sequence. They studied the sea lettuce to gain insights into the growth and reproduction of multicellular green algae.
Seaweeds evolved independently from land plants, and the research found that the mechanisms underlying their growth and development are distinct.
Ulva species are widely found along tropical and temperate coasts, and several species penetrate freshwater streams and lakes. In high-nutrient conditions, spectacular blooms of Ulva (green tides) often cover several hundred kilometers of coastal waters. Beached algae may reach one million tons and smother entire coastlines. Although not toxic, green tides have killed people when blooms die and generate hydrogen sulfide.
The Ulva genome offers new opportunities to understand coastal and marine ecosystems and the evolution of green seaweeds. Comparison of Ulva species that bloom and don’t bloom may boost understanding of the molecular mechanisms underpinning growth and reproduction in response to environmental conditions, the study says.