Pheromone signaling during sexual reproduction in algae



Algae are found in all aquatic and many terrestrial habitats. They are dominant in phytoplankton and biofilms thereby contributing massively to global primary production. Since algae comprise photosynthetic representatives of the various protoctist groups their physiology and appearance is highly diverse. This diversity is also mirrored in their characteristic life cycles that exhibit various facets of ploidy and duration of the asexual phase as well as gamete morphology. Nevertheless, sexual reproduction in unicellular and colonial algae usually has as common motive that two specialized, sexually compatible haploid gametes establish physical contact and fuse. To guarantee mating success, processes during sexual reproduction are highly synchronized and regulated. This review focuses on sex pheromones of algae that play a key role in these processes. Especially, the diversity of sexual strategies as well as of the compounds involved are the focus of this contribution. Discoveries connected to algal pheromone chemistry shed light on the role of key evolutionary processes, including endosymbiotic events and lateral gene transfer, speciation and adaptation at all phylogenetic levels. But progress in this field might also in the future provide valid tools for the manipulation of aquaculture and environmental processes.