Photosynthesis Research (v.107, #1)

The integrated functioning of two photosystems (I and II) whether in cyanobacteria or in chloroplasts is the outstanding sign of a common ancestral origin. Many variations on the basic theme are currently evident in oxygenic photosynthetic organisms whether they are prokaryotes, unicellular, or multicellular. By conservative estimates, oxygenic photosynthesis has been around for at least ca. 2.2–2.7 billions years, consistent with cyanobacteria-type microfossils, biomarkers, and an atmospheric rise in oxygen to less than 1.0% of the present concentration. The presumptions of chloroplast formation by the cyanobacterial uptake into a eukaryote prior to 1.6 BYa ago are confounded by assumptions of host type(s) and potential tolerance of oxygen toxicity. The attempted dating and interrelationships of particular chloroplasts in various plant or animal lineages has relied heavily on phylogenomic analysis and evaluations that have been difficult to confirm separately. Many variations occur in algal groups, involving the type and number of accessory pigments, and the number(s) of membranes (2–4) enclosing a chloroplast, which can both help and complicate inferences made about early or late origins of chloroplasts. Integration of updated phylogenomics with physiological and cytological observations remains a special challenge, but could lead to more accurate assumptions of initial and extant endosymbiotic event(s) leading toward stable chloroplast associations.
Keywords: Chloroplast types; Cyanobacteria; Eukaryotic algae; Nucleomorph; Reaction centers

Geological constraints on the origin of oxygenic photosynthesis by James Farquhar; Aubrey L. Zerkle; Andrey Bekker (11-36).
This article examines the geological evidence for the rise of atmospheric oxygen and the origin of oxygenic photosynthesis. The evidence for the rise of atmospheric oxygen places a minimum time constraint before which oxygenic photosynthesis must have developed, and was subsequently established as the primary control on the atmospheric oxygen level. The geological evidence places the global rise of atmospheric oxygen, termed the Great Oxidation Event (GOE), between ~2.45 and ~2.32 Ga, and it is captured within the Duitschland Formation, which shows a transition from mass-independent to mass-dependent sulfur isotope fractionation. The rise of atmospheric oxygen during this interval is closely associated with a number of environmental changes, such as glaciations and intense continental weathering, and led to dramatic changes in the oxidation state of the ocean and the seawater inventory of transition elements. There are other features of the geologic record predating the GOE by as much as 200–300 million years, perhaps extending as far back as the Mesoarchean–Neoarchean boundary at 2.8 Ga, that suggest the presence of low level, transient or local, oxygenation. If verified, these features would not only imply an earlier origin for oxygenic photosynthesis, but also require a mechanism to decouple oxygen production from oxidation of Earth’s surface environments. Most hypotheses for the GOE suggest that oxygen production by oxygenic photosynthesis is a precondition for the rise of oxygen, but that a synchronous change in atmospheric oxygen level is not required by the onset of this oxygen source. The potential lag-time in the response of Earth surface environments is related to the way that oxygen sinks, such as reduced Fe and sulfur compounds, respond to oxygen production. Changes in oxygen level imply an imbalance in the sources and sinks for oxygen. Changes in the cycling of oxygen have occurred at various times before and after the GOE, and do not appear to require corresponding changes in the intensity of oxygenic photosynthesis. The available geological constraints for these changes do not, however, disallow a direct role for this metabolism. The geological evidence for early oxygen and hypotheses for the controls on oxygen level are the basis for the interpretation of photosynthetic oxygen production as examined in this review.
Keywords: Oxygen evolution; Atmospheric oxygenation; Origin of photosynthesis; Iron speciation; Transition elements; Isotopes; Mass independent; Sulfur isotopes; Nitrogen metabolism

The evolutionary consequences of oxygenic photosynthesis: a body size perspective by Jonathan L. Payne; Craig R. McClain; Alison G. Boyer; James H. Brown; Seth Finnegan; Michał Kowalewski; Richard A. Krause Jr.; S. Kathleen Lyons; Daniel W. McShea; Philip M. Novack-Gottshall; Felisa A. Smith; Paula Spaeth; Jennifer A. Stempien; Steve C. Wang (37-57).
The high concentration of molecular oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere is arguably the most conspicuous and geologically important signature of life. Earth’s early atmosphere lacked oxygen; accumulation began after the evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis in cyanobacteria around 3.0–2.5 billion years ago (Gya). Concentrations of oxygen have since varied, first reaching near-modern values ~600 million years ago (Mya). These fluctuations have been hypothesized to constrain many biological patterns, among them the evolution of body size. Here, we review the state of knowledge relating oxygen availability to body size. Laboratory studies increasingly illuminate the mechanisms by which organisms can adapt physiologically to the variation in oxygen availability, but the extent to which these findings can be extrapolated to evolutionary timescales remains poorly understood. Experiments confirm that animal size is limited by experimental hypoxia, but show that plant vegetative growth is enhanced due to reduced photorespiration at lower O2:CO2. Field studies of size distributions across extant higher taxa and individual species in the modern provide qualitative support for a correlation between animal and protist size and oxygen availability, but few allow prediction of maximum or mean size from oxygen concentrations in unstudied regions. There is qualitative support for a link between oxygen availability and body size from the fossil record of protists and animals, but there have been few quantitative analyses confirming or refuting this impression. As oxygen transport limits the thickness or volume-to-surface area ratio—rather than mass or volume—predictions of maximum possible size cannot be constructed simply from metabolic rate and oxygen availability. Thus, it remains difficult to confirm that the largest representatives of fossil or living taxa are limited by oxygen transport rather than other factors. Despite the challenges of integrating findings from experiments on model organisms, comparative observations across living species, and fossil specimens spanning millions to billions of years, numerous tractable avenues of research could greatly improve quantitative constraints on the role of oxygen in the macroevolutionary history of organismal size.
Keywords: Body size; Oxygen; Evolution; Precambrian; Maximum size; Optimum size

In photosynthetic organisms, such as purple bacteria, cyanobacteria, and plants, light is captured and converted into energy to create energy-rich compounds. The primary process of energy conversion involves the transfer of electrons from an excited donor molecule to a series of electron acceptors in pigment–protein complexes. Two of these complexes, the bacterial reaction center and photosystem II, are evolutionarily related and structurally similar. However, only photosystem II is capable of performing the unique reaction of water oxidation. An understanding of the evolutionary process that lead to the development of oxygenic photosynthesis can be found by comparison of these two complexes. In this review, we summarize how insight is being gained by examination of the differences in critical functional properties of these complexes and by experimental efforts to alter pigment–protein interactions of the bacterial reaction center in order to enable it to perform reactions, such as amino acid and metal oxidation, observable in photosystem II.
Keywords: Photosynthesis; Evolution; Reaction center; Tyrosine oxidation; Manganese; Oxygen-evolving complex; Rhodobacter sphaeroides ; Purple bacteria

The evolution of Photosystem II: insights into the past and future by Adele Williamson; Brendon Conlan; Warwick Hillier; Tom Wydrzynski (71-86).
This article attempts to address the molecular origin of Photosystem II (PSII), the central component in oxygenic photosynthesis. It discusses the possible evolution of the relevant cofactors needed for splitting water into molecular O2 with respect to the following functional domains in PSII: the reaction center (RC), the oxygen evolving complex (OEC), and the manganese stabilizing protein (MSP). Possible ancestral sources of the relevant cofactors are considered, as are scenarios of how these components may have been brought together to produce the intermediate steps in the evolution of PSII. Most importantly, the driving forces that maintained these intermediates for continued adaptation are considered. We then apply our understanding of the evolution of PSII to the bioengineering of a water oxidizing catalyst for utilization of solar energy.
Keywords: Evolution; Photosystem II; Reaction center; Water splitting; Manganese stabilizing protein; O2 production

The paleobiological record of photosynthesis by J. William Schopf (87-101).
Fossil evidence of photosynthesis, documented in Precambrian sediments by microbially laminated stromatolites, cyanobacterial microscopic fossils, and carbon isotopic data consistent with the presence of Rubisco-mediated CO2-fixation, extends from the present to ~3,500 million years ago. Such data, however, do not resolve time of origin of O2-producing photoautotrophy from its anoxygenic, bacterial, evolutionary precursor. Though it is well established that Earth’s ecosystem has been based on autotrophy since its very early stages, the time of origin of oxygenic photosynthesis, more than 2,450 million years ago, has yet to be established.
Keywords: Archean; Carbon isotopes; Confocal laser scanning microcopy; Great oxidation event; Microfossils; Precambrian; Raman spectroscopy

The chromalveolate hypothesis proposed by Cavalier-Smith (J Euk Microbiol 46:347–366, 1999) suggested that all the algae with chlorophyll c (heterokonts, haptophytes, cryptophytes, and dinoflagellates), as well as the ciliates, apicomplexans, oomycetes, and other non-photosynthetic relatives, shared a common ancestor that acquired a chloroplast by secondary endosymbiosis of a red alga. Much of the evidence from plastid and nuclear genomes supports a red algal origin for plastids of the photosynthetic lineages, but the number of secondary endosymbioses and the number of plastid losses have not been resolved. The issue is complicated by the fact that nuclear genomes are mosaics of genes acquired over a very long time period, not only by vertical descent but also by endosymbiotic and horizontal gene transfer. Phylogenomic analysis of the available whole-genome data has suggested major alterations to our view of eukaryotic evolution, and given rise to alternative models. The next few years may see even more changes once a more representative collection of sequenced genomes becomes available.
Keywords: Algae; Chloroplasts; Chlorophyll c ; Chromalveolate hypothesis; Molecular evolution; Phylogeny; Plastids; Secondary endosymbiosis

Many non-photosynthetic species of protists and metazoans are capable of hosting viable algal endosymbionts or their organelles through adaptations of phagocytic pathways. A form of mixotrophy combining phototrophy and heterotrophy, acquired phototrophy (AcPh) encompasses a suite of endosymbiotic and organelle retention interactions, that range from facultative to obligate. AcPh is a common phenomenon in aquatic ecosystems, with endosymbiotic associations generally more prevalent in nutrient poor environments, and organelle retention typically associated with more productive ones. All AcPhs benefit from enhanced growth due to access to photosynthetic products; however, the degree of metabolic integration and dependency in the host varies widely. AcPh is found in at least four of the major eukaryotic supergroups, and is the driving force in the evolution of secondary and tertiary plastid acquisitions. Mutualistic resource partitioning characterizes most algal endosymbiotic interactions, while organelle retention is a form of predation, characterized by nutrient flow (i.e., growth) in one direction. AcPh involves adaptations to recognize specific prey or endosymbionts and to house organelles or endosymbionts within the endomembrane system but free from digestion. In many cases, hosts depend upon AcPh for the production of essential nutrients, many of which remain obscure. The practice of AcPh has led to multiple independent secondary and tertiary plastid acquisition events among several eukaryote lineages, giving rise to the diverse array of algae found in modern aquatic ecosystems. This article highlights those AcPhs that are model research organisms for both metazoans and protists. Much of the basic biology of AcPhs remains enigmatic, particularly (1) which essential nutrients or factors make certain forms of AcPh obligatory, (2) how hosts regulate and manipulate endosymbionts or sequestered organelles, and (3) what genomic imprint, if any, AcPh leaves on non-photosynthetic host species.
Keywords: Acquired phototrophy; Mixotrophy; Kleptoplastidy; Karyoklepty; Endosymbiosis