Marine microalgae: Systems biology from ‘omics’

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Systems Biology of Marine Ecosystems, 2017, pp. 207 - 221
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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017. Marine biological systems are vast, productive, long-lived, dynamic, and complex. The oceans are fed and balanced primarily through photosynthesis and nutrient cycling by ubiquitous marine microalgae, including cyanobacteria, found thriving even in vast nutrient-limited pelagic deserts, and larger eukaryotic phytoplankton, whose genetic and functional diversity appear substantially more complex and understudied than initially expected. The rapid complete sequencing of environmentally relevant genomes has provided the first precise molecular descriptions of complete biological systems. Metatranscriptomic data quickly and easily provide intercomparable system-wide and conditionally relevant functional information. Environmental proteomics are able to directly identify functional protein biomarkers of nutrient conditions. The integration of comprehensive molecular data (genomes, transcriptomes, proteomes, metabolomes) into models capable of rigorous hypothesis testing and prediction constitutes a new way to study the connections between genotype and phenotype, phenotype and environment, species and ecosystems, and interspecies evolution and adaptation. To date, marine microalgae are the first and most extensively studied marine organisms in terms of their functioning as coalescent molecular systems. The richness of data, systematic integration, and predictive models therein set a new example for the broad new study of marine life at unprecedented detail and comparability, promising answers to broad new scientific, statistical, and quantitative questions of critical concern for the present and future functioning and adaptability of the world’s oceans.
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