Green Algae and the Origins of Multicellularity in the Plant Kingdom

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The green lineage of chlorophyte algae and streptophytes form a large and diverse clade with multiple independent transitions to produce multicellular and/or macroscopically complex organization. In this review, I focus on two of the best-studied multicellular groups of green algae: charophytes and volvocines. Charophyte algae are the closest relatives of land plants and encompass the transition from unicellularity to simple multicellularity. Many of the innovations present in land plants have their roots in the cell and developmental biology of charophyte algae. Volvocine algae evolved an independent route to multicellularity that is captured by a graded series of increasing cell-type specialization and developmental complexity. The study of volvocine algae has provided unprecedented insights into the innovations required to achieve multicellularity.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCold Spring Harbor perspectives in biology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014


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