Phylogeny of the conjugating green algae (Zygnemophyceae) based on rbcL sequences

Richard M. McCourt, Kenneth G. Karol, Jeremy Bell, Kathleen M. Helm-Bychowski, Anna Grajewska, Martin F. Wojciechowski, Robert W. Hoshaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Sequences of the gene encoding the large subunit of RUBISCO (rbcL) for 30 genera in the six currently recognized families of conjugating green algae (Desmidiaceae, Gonatozygaceae, Mesotaeniaceae, Peniaceae, and Zygnemataceae) were analyzed using maximum parsimony and maximum likelihood; bootstrap replications were performed as a measure of support for clades. Other Charophyceae sensu Mattox and Stewart and representative land plants were used as outgroups. All analyses supported the monophyly of the conjugating green algae. The Desmidiales, or placoderm desmids, constitute a monophyletic group, with moderate to strong support for the four component families of this assemblage (Closteriaceae, Desmidiaceae, Gonatozygaceae, and Peniaceae). The analyses showed that the two families of Zygnematales (Mesotaeniaceae, Zygnemataceae), which have plesiomorphic, unornamented and unsegmented cell walls, are not monophyletic. However, combined taxa of these two traditional families may constitute a monophyletic group. Partitioning the data by codon position revealed no significant differences across all positions or between partitions of positions one and two versus position three. The trees resulting from parsimony analyses using first plus second positions versus third position differed only in topology of branches with poor bootstrap support. The tree derived from third positions only was more resolved than the tree derived from first and second positions. The rbcL-based phylogeny is largely congruent with published analyses of small subunit rDNA sequences for the Zygnematales. The molecular data do not support hypotheses of monophyly for groups of extant unicellular and filamentous or colonial desmid genera exhibiting a common cell shape. A trend is evident from simple omniradiate cell shapes to taxa with lobed cell and plastid shapes, which supports the hypothesis that chloroplast shape evolved generally from simple to complex. The data imply that multicellular placoderm desmids are monophyletic. Several anomalous placements of genera were found, including the saccoderm desmid Roya in the Gonatozygaceae and the zygnematacean Entransia in the Coleochaetales. The former is strongly supported, although the latter is not, and Entransia's phylogenetic position warrants further study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)747-758
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Phycology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Charophyceae
  • Desmidiales
  • Green algal phylogeny
  • Molecular systematics, rbcL, Zygnematales, Zygnemophyceae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Plant Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Phylogeny of the conjugating green algae (Zygnemophyceae) based on rbcL sequences'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this