Conserved cobalamin acquisition protein 1 is essential for vitamin B12 uptake in both Chlamydomonas and Phaeodactylum

Andrew P. Sayer, Marcel Llavero-Pasquina, Katrin Geisler, Andre Holzer, Freddy Bunbury, Gonzalo I. Mendoza-Ochoa, Andrew D. Lawrence, Martin J. Warren, Payam Mehrshahi, Alison G. Smith*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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Microalgae play an essential role in global net primary productivity and global biogeochemical cycling. Despite their phototrophic lifestyle, over half of algal species depend for growth on acquiring an external supply of the corrinoid vitamin B12 (cobalamin), a micronutrient produced only by a subset of prokaryotic organisms. Previous studies have identified protein components involved in vitamin B12 uptake in bacterial species and humans. However, little is known about its uptake in algae. Here, we demonstrate the essential role of a protein, cobalamin acquisition protein 1 (CBA1), in B12 uptake in Phaeodactylum tricornutum using CRISPR-Cas9 to generate targeted knockouts and in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii by insertional mutagenesis. In both cases, CBA1 knockout lines could not take up exogenous vitamin B12. Complementation of the C. reinhardtii mutants with the wild-type CBA1 gene restored B12 uptake, and regulation of CBA1 expression via a riboswitch element enabled control of the phenotype. When visualized by confocal microscopy, a YFP-fusion with C. reinhardtii CBA1 showed association with membranes. Bioinformatics analysis found that CBA1-like sequences are present in all major eukaryotic phyla. In algal taxa, the majority that encoded CBA1 also had genes for B12-dependent enzymes, suggesting CBA1 plays a conserved role. Our results thus provide insight into the molecular basis of algal B12 acquisition, a process that likely underpins many interactions in aquatic microbial communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)698-714
Number of pages17
JournalPlant Physiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


  • Bacteria/metabolism
  • Chlamydomonas reinhardtii/genetics
  • Chlamydomonas/metabolism
  • Diatoms/genetics
  • Humans
  • Vitamin B 12/genetics
  • Binding
  • Growth
  • One-carbon metabolism
  • Identification
  • Escherichia-coli
  • Physiology
  • Transport


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