The Chlamydomonas cell cycle

Frederick R. Cross, James G. Umen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Scopus citations


Summary The position of Chlamydomonas within the eukaryotic phylogeny makes it a unique model in at least two important ways: as a representative of the critically important, early-diverging lineage leading to plants; and as a microbe retaining important features of the last eukaryotic common ancestor (LECA) that has been lost in the highly studied yeast lineages. Its cell biology has been studied for many decades and it has well-developed experimental genetic tools, both classical (Mendelian) and molecular. Unlike land plants, it is a haploid with very few gene duplicates, making it ideal for loss-of-function genetic studies. The Chlamydomonas cell cycle has a striking temporal and functional separation between cell growth and rapid cell division, probably connected to the interplay between diurnal cycles that drive photosynthetic cell growth and the cell division cycle; it also exhibits a highly choreographed interaction between the cell cycle and its centriole-basal body-flagellar cycle. Here, we review the current status of studies of the Chlamydomonas cell cycle. We begin with an overview of cell-cycle control in the well-studied yeast and animal systems, which has yielded a canonical, well-supported model. We discuss briefly what is known about similarities and differences in plant cell-cycle control, compared with this model. We next review the cytology and cell biology of the multiple-fission cell cycle of Chlamydomonas. Lastly, we review recent genetic approaches and insights into Chlamydomonas cell-cycle regulation that have been enabled by a new generation of genomics-based tools. Significance Statement Chlamydomonas is an excellent model for many areas of eukaryotic biology, including the cell cycle. Its phylogenetic position in the green lineage and its utility as a microbial genetic system give this organism great potential for addressing unanswered questions about eukaryotic cell cycle control and for defining new regulatory mechanisms that govern cell cycle progression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)370-392
Number of pages23
JournalPlant Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2015


  • Chlamydomonas reinhardtii
  • Volvocine algae
  • cell-cycle mutant
  • cytokinesis
  • mitosis
  • multiple fission
  • phycoplast


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