© 2014 Guo et al. The discovery of microbial rhodopsins in marine proteobacteria change d the dogma that photosynthesis is the only pathway to use the solar energy for biological utilization in the marine environment. Although homologs of these rhodopsins have been identified in dinoflagellates, the diversity of the encoding genes and their physiological roles remain unexplored. As an initial step toward addressing the gap, we conducted high-throughput transcriptome sequencing on Oxyrrhis marina to retrieve rhodopsin transcripts, rapid amplification of cDNA ends to isolate full-length cDNAs of dominant representatives, and quantitative reverse-transcription PCR to investigate their expression under varying conditions. Our phylogenetic analyses showed that O. marina contained both the proton-pumping type (PR) and sensory type (SR) rhodopsins, and the transcriptome data showed that the PR type dominated over the SR type. We compared rhodopsin gene expression for cultures kept under light: dark cycle and continuous darkness in a time course of 24 days without feeding. Although both types of rhodopsin were expressed under the two conditions, the expression levels of PR were much higher than SR, consistent with the transcriptomic data. Furthermore, relative to cultures kept in the dark, rhodopsin expression levels and cell survival rate were both higher in cultures grown in the light. This is the first report of light-dependent promotion of starvation survival and concomitant promotion of PR expression in a eukaryote. While direct evidence needs to come from functional test on rhodopsins in vitro or gene knockout/knockdown experiments, our results suggest that the proton-pumping rhodopsin might be responsible for the light-enhanced survival of O. marina, as previously demonstrated in bacteria.
Guo, Z., Zhang, H., & Lin, S. (2014). Light-promoted rhodopsin expression and starvation survival in the marine dinoflagellate Oxyrrhis marina. PLoS ONE, 9(12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0114941