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Molecular Biology of Specific Organisms

  1. Jean-David Rochaix

Published Online: 15 SEP 2006

DOI: 10.1002/3527600906.mcb.200300012

Reviews in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine

Reviews in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine

How to Cite

Rochaix, J.-D. 2006. Chlamydomonas. Reviews in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine. .

Author Information

  1. University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2006


The highly diversified, polyphyletic genus Chlamydomonas comprises more than 450 species of unicellular flagellated photosynthetic algae. These organisms are especially attractive for several areas of research in cell and molecular biology because of their small size, fast growth rate, and short sexual cycle. However, only a few species have been actively used for molecular genetic studies. They include the heterothallic species C. reinhardtii and C. smithii, which are in the line of descent leading to the multicellular species Volvox; the sibling species pair C. eugametos and C. moewusii, both very distinct from C. reinhardtii ; and the homothallic species C. monoica . This article focuses on C. reinhardtii because this alga has emerged as the organism of choice for most investigations. Chlamydomonas eugametos and C. moewusii have also been used for studies on mating and chloroplast inheritance. However, since in contrast to C. reinhardtii both these species are obligate photoautotrophs, their use is more limited. Chlamydomonas monoica is particularly suited for the analysis of the genetic control of sexuality, and several mutants defective in mating-type or zygote formation have been isolated and characterized.

Major technical advances have been achieved recently with C. reinhardtii . They include the development of reliable transformation methods for the nuclear, chloroplast, and mitochondrial compartments. Gene tagging and nuclear gene rescue of mutants with genomic libraries are also feasible. Chlamydomonas genomics projects have created large sets of ESTs that have greatly facilitated the cloning of nuclear genes of known function, and the Chlamydomonas nuclear genome sequence has been determined recently.

With these new tools, C. reinhardtii has become a powerful model system in which it is possible to perform an extensive molecular genetic dissection of fundamental biological processes, in particular photosynthesis, organellar biogenesis, and flagellar function and assembly.


  • BAC;
  • Cosmid;
  • DNA Complexity;
  • EST;
  • Intron;
  • Linkage Group;
  • Open Reading Frame;
  • Splicing