Research Topic

Mixotrophic, Secondary Heterotrophic, and Parasitic Algae

About this Research Topic

A central paradigm to biochemistry and ecology is that organic materials are made through photosynthesis and consumed via respiration. Photosynthesis transforms the energy from sunlight into the production of sugars, and in turn, other primary metabolites. Such metabolites may be used either by the producing organism or consumed and respired by heterotrophic species. This biotrophic energetic cycle, supported by the unique machinery of photosystems and respiratory electron transport chains, has enabled the evolution of complex ecological systems with layered trophic connections and underpins the striking success of life on Earth.

In eukaryotes, photosynthesis is carried out by chloroplast-containing organisms, including at least ten distinct photosynthetic algal groups, together with terrestrial plants. These algal lineages are distantly related to one another and have independently acquired the evolutionary benefits of photosynthesis through the endosymbiotic uptake of chloroplasts. However, certain chloroplast-containing eukaryotes function as both producers and consumers of organic resources in global ecosystems. These include mixotrophs, which supplement their photosynthetic production with organic nutrients acquired through osmotrophy, and phagocytotic consumption of other cells. Alongside these, a diverse range of non-photosynthetic algae and plants, which have descended from photosynthetic ancestors, have reverted to solely heterotrophic lifestyles.

This Research Topic seeks to gather new insights into the cellular functions and ecosystem-level significance of mixotrophic and heterotrophic life strategies, across algal lineages. The research can be at the level of individual algal species, up to the level of global ecosystem processes or eukaryote-wide comparative evolution. We welcome in-depth studies of individual algal groups, and comparative overviews of mixotrophic and non-photosynthetic algae across the tree of life, and planetary ecosystems. We welcome Original Research, Review, Methods, Opinions, and Perspectives manuscripts on the following topics:

• Taxonomy and diversity of mixotrophic and heterotrophic algae
• Evolutionary origins and history of heterotrophy in photosynthetic eukaryotes
• Metabolic and biochemical functions of mixotrophy for photosynthetic cells
• Ecological significance of mixotrophy in contemporary ocean and freshwater ecosystems
• Biology, pathology, and epidemiological significance of parasitic eukaryotes of algal descent

Please note that descriptive reports of mixotrophy in photosynthetic algae will not be considered if they do not address the physiological significance of these processes.

Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.


Keywords: Chloroplast evolution, Plastids, Mixotrophy, Ochrophytes, Diatoms, Chrysophytes, Archaeplastids, Cryptophytes, Haptophytes, Dinoflagellates, Apicomplexans, Euglenozoa, Protozoa


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

A central paradigm to biochemistry and ecology is that organic materials are made through photosynthesis and consumed via respiration. Photosynthesis transforms the energy from sunlight into the production of sugars, and in turn, other primary metabolites. Such metabolites may be used either by the producing organism or consumed and respired by heterotrophic species. This biotrophic energetic cycle, supported by the unique machinery of photosystems and respiratory electron transport chains, has enabled the evolution of complex ecological systems with layered trophic connections and underpins the striking success of life on Earth.

In eukaryotes, photosynthesis is carried out by chloroplast-containing organisms, including at least ten distinct photosynthetic algal groups, together with terrestrial plants. These algal lineages are distantly related to one another and have independently acquired the evolutionary benefits of photosynthesis through the endosymbiotic uptake of chloroplasts. However, certain chloroplast-containing eukaryotes function as both producers and consumers of organic resources in global ecosystems. These include mixotrophs, which supplement their photosynthetic production with organic nutrients acquired through osmotrophy, and phagocytotic consumption of other cells. Alongside these, a diverse range of non-photosynthetic algae and plants, which have descended from photosynthetic ancestors, have reverted to solely heterotrophic lifestyles.

This Research Topic seeks to gather new insights into the cellular functions and ecosystem-level significance of mixotrophic and heterotrophic life strategies, across algal lineages. The research can be at the level of individual algal species, up to the level of global ecosystem processes or eukaryote-wide comparative evolution. We welcome in-depth studies of individual algal groups, and comparative overviews of mixotrophic and non-photosynthetic algae across the tree of life, and planetary ecosystems. We welcome Original Research, Review, Methods, Opinions, and Perspectives manuscripts on the following topics:

• Taxonomy and diversity of mixotrophic and heterotrophic algae
• Evolutionary origins and history of heterotrophy in photosynthetic eukaryotes
• Metabolic and biochemical functions of mixotrophy for photosynthetic cells
• Ecological significance of mixotrophy in contemporary ocean and freshwater ecosystems
• Biology, pathology, and epidemiological significance of parasitic eukaryotes of algal descent

Please note that descriptive reports of mixotrophy in photosynthetic algae will not be considered if they do not address the physiological significance of these processes.

Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.


Keywords: Chloroplast evolution, Plastids, Mixotrophy, Ochrophytes, Diatoms, Chrysophytes, Archaeplastids, Cryptophytes, Haptophytes, Dinoflagellates, Apicomplexans, Euglenozoa, Protozoa


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

15 September 2020 Abstract
15 November 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

15 September 2020 Abstract
15 November 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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