Bachy Charles, Wittmers Fabian, Muschiol Jan, Hamilton Maria, Henrissat Bernard, Worden Alexandra
The colonization of land by plants generated opportunities for the rise of new heterotrophic life forms, including humankind. A unique event underpinned this massive change to earth ecosystems-the advent of eukaryotic green algae. Today, an abundant marine green algal group, the prasinophytes, alongside prasinodermophytes and nonmarine chlorophyte algae, is facilitating insights into plant developments. Genome-level data allow identification of conserved proteins and protein families with extensive modifications, losses, or gains and expansion patterns that connect to niche specialization and diversification. Here, we contextualize attributes according to Viridiplantae evolutionary relationships, starting with orthologous protein families, and then focusing on key elements with marked differentiation, resulting in patchy distributions across green algae and plants. We place attention on peptidoglycan biosynthesis, important for plastid division and walls; phytochrome photosensors that are master regulators in plants; and carbohydrate-active enzymes, essential to all manner of carbohydratebiotransformations. Together with advances in algal model systems, these areas are ripe for discovering molecular roles and innovations within and across plant and algal lineages.