Research Topic

From the emergence of multicellularity to complex body architectures: update and perspectives on the biological mechanisms involved in macroalgal development.

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Macroalgae are photosynthetic multicellular organisms of diverse size, mostly living in aquatic environments. Habitats range from extreme salinity to fresh waters. Macroalgae are present on most of the coasts of the planet, and are also found freely floating in the middle of the oceans. Macroalgae themselves ...

Macroalgae are photosynthetic multicellular organisms of diverse size, mostly living in aquatic environments. Habitats range from extreme salinity to fresh waters. Macroalgae are present on most of the coasts of the planet, and are also found freely floating in the middle of the oceans. Macroalgae themselves are ecological niches, as they provide shelter and food for aquatic fauna, microorganisms and microalgae.

These organisms are key primary producers, representing an untapped biological resource. They produce more biomass per unit area than land plants and their growth in the sea can ease pressure on agricultural land, fertilizer and freshwater resources. Their extracts are used in preparing foods, cosmetics and medicines (including antibacterials, antivirals, anti-inflammatories, antioxidants, anticoagulants and antiproliferatives). They are also used in environmental phytoremediation, absorbing excess nitrogen, phosphorus and heavy metals from water. However, macroalgae can also cause environmental and societal problems, with the potential to form nuisance blooms and to be agents of biofouling.

Macroalgae diverged early during the evolution of eukaryotic organisms. Historically, all macroalgae (brown, red, green) were classified in the same phylum. Indeed, all are relatively unstructured, with viscous bodies, compared to, for example, land plants, and they share common habitats. However, more recent analysis demonstrates that while red and green macroalgae diverged from the land plant lineage early during its history, brown algae are as divergent from the land plant lineage as they are from animals.

While some macroalgae develop only very tiny and basic body shapes, others display large and complex body architectures. This offers scientists a large range of morphologies to explore and compare. However, in contrast to land plants, macroalgae have been scarcely studied. In particular, how they develop their body plans remains largely unknown.

This Research Topic aims to present the current state-of-the-art of the knowledge of mechanisms involved in the development of macroalgal body plans. Past and current studies have tackled this issue via biophysics, biochemistry and cell- and molecular biology, both at the level of intrinsic developmental control, and in response to environmental changes or biotic interactions. The following articles will address the role of structural sub-cellular factors, gene expression regulators, cell signaling pathways and external chemical morphogenetic signals of diverse origins, while environmental factors influencing macroalgal morphogenesis will also be reviewed.

This will be achieved in the light of the technologies and methodologies that are currently in use or under development, in addition to those we can expect, thanks to the advances in other research fields, to co-opt in the future. They will all contribute to our capacity to further explore macroalgal development.

Finally, based on both these current knowledge and technologies, this Research Topic of “Frontiers in Plant Science” will provide several perspective views on the evolution of this research field, in line with the evolution of the societal view on marine bioresources and management.


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