Isoprenoid biosynthesis authenticates the classification of the green alga Mesostigma viride as an ancient streptophyte.
Land plants harbor two essential and completely different metabolic pathways for isoprenoid synthesis. The cytosolic mevalonate pathway (MVA) is shared with heterotrophic eukaryotes, whereas the plastidial 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) pathway has a cyanobacterial origin and was recruited after primary endosymbiosis. Terrestrial plants and green algae have a common evolutionary ancestry, but biochemical as well as genome analyses indicate that the cytosolic MVA pathway is generally absent from Chlorophyta. We investigated the distribution of genes for both pathways in the green alga Mesostigma viride, a key species at the basis of streptophycean (charophycean green algae, land plant) evolution. Ten of altogether twelve generally weakly expressed genes for isoprenoid biosynthesis, including three for the cytosolic MVA pathway, were amplified using a reverse transcription PCR approach with individually designed degenerate primers. Two full length cDNA clones for the first enzyme of the MVA pathway (HMGS) were additionally established from the charophycean green alga Chara vulgaris by library screening. The presence of the MVA pathway in these advanced green algae indicates a universal distribution among Streptophyta, and our phylogenetic HMGS analyses substantiate the recent classification of Mesostigma basal to charophytes and land plants. We identified each of the five cytosolic MVA genes/cDNAs in the genome of the rhodophyte Galdieria sulphuraria and, furthermore, amplified four of them from the glaucophyte Cyanophora paradoxa. Our data indicate that the MVA pathway is a characteristic trait of Plantae in general and propose that it was specifically lost in a common ancestor of Chlorophyta.