In a new paper just published in the international journal, Protoplasma, UNSW biophysicist, Dr Mary Beilby, and her collaborators in New York and Austria explore how Characeae are closely related to the ancient algal ancestors of all land plants. The research is important in demonstrating the remarkable evolutionary capacity of Characean cells in adapting to different environments.

Beilby and her co-researchers explain: “The long characean cells display pH banding pattern to facilitate inorganic carbon import in the acid zones for photosynthetic efficiency. The excess OH-, generated in the cytoplasm after CO2 is taken into the chloroplasts, is disposed of in the alkaline band. To identify the transporter responsible, we searched the Chara australis transcriptome for homologs of mouse Slc4a11, which functions as OH-/H+ transporter. We found a single Slc4-like sequence CL5060.2 (named CaSLOT). When CaSLOT was expressed in Xenopus oocytes, an increase in membrane conductance and hyperpolarization of resting potential difference (PD) was observed with external pH increase to 9.5. These features recall the behavior of Slc4a11 in oocytes and are consistent with the action of a pH-dependent OH-/H+ conductance. The large scatter in the data might reflect intrinsic variability of CaSLOT transporter activation, inefficient expression in the oocyte due to evolutionary distance between ancient algae and frogs, or absence of putative activating factor present in Chara cytoplasm. CaSLOT homologues were found in chlorophyte and charophyte algae, but surprisingly not in related charophytes Zygnematophyceae or Coleochaetophyceae.”