Two unlinked genes FER1 and FER2 encoding ferritin subunits were identified in the Chlamydomonas genome. An improved FER2 gene model, built on the basis of manual sequencing and incorporation of unplaced reads, indicated 49% identity between the ferritin subunits. Both FER1 and FER2 transcripts are increased in abundance as iron nutrition is decreased but the pattern for each gene is distinct. Using subunit-specific antibodies, we monitored expression at the protein level. In response to low iron, ferritin1 subunits and the ferritin1 complex are increased in parallel to the increase in FER1 mRNA. Nevertheless, the iron content of the ferritin1 complex is decreased. This suggests that increased expression results in increased capacity for iron binding in the chloroplast of iron-limited cells, which supports a role for ferritin1 as an iron buffer. On the other hand, ferritin2 abundance is decreased in iron-deprived cells, indicative of the operation of iron-nutrition-responsive regulation at the translational or post-translational level for FER2. Both ferritin subunits are plastid localized but ferritin1 is quantitatively recovered in soluble extracts of cells while ferritin2 is found in the particulate fraction. Partial purification of the ferritin1 complex indicates that the two ferritins are associated in distinct complexes and do not coassemble. The ratio of ferritin1 to ferritin2 is 70:1 in iron-replete cells, suggestive of a more dominant role of ferritin1 in iron homeostasis. The Volvox genome contains orthologs of each FER gene, indicating that the duplication of FER genes and potential diversification of function occurred prior to the divergence of species in the Volvocales.


  • Sequence data from this article have been deposited with the EMBL/GenBank Data Libraries under accession no. EU223296.

  • 1 Present address: Windward School, Los Angeles, CA 90066.

  • 2 Present address: University of Freiburg, Biology 2, 79104 Freiburg, Germany.

  • Communicating editor: O. Vallon

  • Received December 16, 2007.
  • Accepted March 21, 2008.
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