Synthesis of several light-harvesting complex I polypeptides is blocked by cycloheximide in symbiotic chloroplasts in the sea slug, Elysia chlorotica (Gould): A case for horizontal gene transfer between alga and animal?
The chloroplast symbiosis between the ascoglossan (=Sacoglossa) sea slug Elysia chlorotica and plastids from the chromophytic alga Vaucheria litorea is the longest-lived relationship of its kind known, lasting up to 9 months. During this time, the plastids continue to photosynthesize in the absence of the algal nucleus at rates sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of the slugs. We have previously demonstrated that the synthesis of photosynthetic proteins occurs while the plastids reside within the diverticular cells of the slug. Here, we have identified several of these synthesized proteins as belonging to the nuclear-encoded family of polypeptides known as light-harvesting complex I (LHCI). The synthesis of LHCI is blocked by the cytosolic ribosomal inhibitor cycloheximide and proceeds in the presence of chloramphenicol, a plastid ribosome inhibitor, indicating that the gene encoding LHCI resides in the nuclear DNA of the slug. These results suggest that a horizontal transfer of the LHCI gene from the alga to the slug has taken place.
Marine Biological Laboratory