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Keywords:

  • algae;
  • genetics;
  • genomics;
  • marine macroalgae;
  • model species;
  • Phaeophyceae

The emergence of model organisms that permit the application of a powerful combination of genomic and genetic approaches has been a major factor underlying the advances that have been made in the past decade in dissecting the molecular basis of a wide range of biological processes. However, the phylogenetic distance separating marine macroalgae from these model organisms, which are mostly from the animal, fungi, and higher plant lineages, limits the latters' applicability to problems specific to macroalgal biology. There is therefore a pressing need to develop similar models for the macroalgae. Here we describe a survey of potential model brown algae in which particular attention was paid to characteristics associated with a strong potential for genomic and genetic analysis, such as a small nuclear genome size, sexuality, and a short life cycle. Flow cytometry of nuclei isolated from zoids showed that species from the Ectocarpales possess smaller haploid genomes (127–290 Mbp) than current models among the Laminariales (580–720 Mbp) and Fucales (1095–1271 Mbp). Species of the Ectocarpales may complete their life histories in as little as 6 weeks in laboratory culture and are amenable to genetic analyses. Based on this study, we propose Ectocarpus siliculosus (Dillwyn) Lyngbye as an optimal choice for a general model organism for the molecular genetics of the brown algae.