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The evolution of the plastid phosphate translocator family

  • Mathias Bockwoldt
  • Ines Heiland
  • Karsten FischerEmail author
Original Article


Main conclusion

The plastid phosphate translocators evolved in algae but diversified into several groups, which adopted different physiological functions by extensive gene duplications and losses in Streptophyta.

The plastid phosphate translocators (pPT) are a family of transporters involved in the exchange of metabolites and inorganic phosphate between stroma and cytosol. Based on their substrate specificities, they were divided into four subfamilies named TPT, PPT, GPT and XPT. To analyse the occurrence of these transporters in different algae and land plant species, we identified 652 pPT genes in 101 sequenced genomes for phylogenetic analysis. The first three subfamilies are found in all species and evolved before the split of red and green algae while the XPTs were derived from the duplication of a GPT gene at the base of Streptophyta. The analysis of the intron–exon structures of the pPTs corroborated these findings. While the number and positions of introns are conserved within each subfamily, they differ between the subfamilies suggesting an insertion of the introns shortly after the three subfamilies evolved. During angiosperm evolution, the subfamilies further split into different groups (TPT1-2, PPT1-3, GPT1-6). Angiosperm species differ significantly in the total number of pPTs, with many species having only a few, while several plants, especially crops, have a higher number, pointing to the importance of these transporters for improved source–sink strength and yield. The differences in the number of pPTs can be explained by several small-scale gene duplications and losses in plant families or single species, but also by whole genome duplications, for example, in grasses. This work could be the basis for a comprehensive analysis of the molecular and physiological functions of this important family of transporters.


Phylogeny Membrane transporters Intron–exon structure Plastid envelope Phosphate translocators 





Glucose-6-phosphate/phosphate translocator


Most recent common ancestor


Oxidative pentose phosphate pathway




Plastid phosphate translocators


Phosphoenolpyruvate/phosphate translocator


Triose phosphate/phosphate translocator


Whole genome duplication


Xylulose-5-phosphate/phosphate translocators





We thank Toni I. Gossmann for helpful comments on this manuscript. The computations were performed on resources provided by UNINETT Sigma2—the National Infrastructure for High Performance Computing and Data Storage in Norway.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

425_2019_3161_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (949 kb)
Detailed view of the TPT phylogeny in Streptophyta. Subfamilies as mentioned in the text are written in bold. The scale bar shows the evolutionary distance 1 (PDF 949 kb)
425_2019_3161_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (1.1 mb)
Detailed view of the PPT phylogeny in Streptophyta. Subfamilies as mentioned in the text are written in bold. The scale bar shows the evolutionary distance 2 (PDF 1117 kb)
425_2019_3161_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (1.4 mb)
Detailed view of the GPT phylogeny in Streptophyta. Subfamilies as mentioned in the text are written in bold. The scale bar shows the evolutionary distance 3 (PDF 1469 kb)
425_2019_3161_MOESM4_ESM.pdf (442 kb)
Detailed view of the XPT phylogeny. The scale bar shows the evolutionary distance 4 (PDF 441 kb)
425_2019_3161_MOESM5_ESM.pdf (845 kb)
Multiple sequence alignment of pPT sequences of Viridiplantae with intron positions indicated by blue background 5 (PDF 845 kb)
425_2019_3161_MOESM6_ESM.xlsx (30 kb)
Complete list of protein sequences. Given are the NCBI accessions, the plant species, the pPT subfamilies and groups. A letter is indicating the specific gene, if necessary 6 (XLSX 30 kb)
425_2019_3161_MOESM7_ESM.xlsx (14 kb)
Comprehensive list of the number of pPTs in each species. Proteins which could not be assigned to a particular group are shown with a grey background 7 (XLSX 14 kb) (17 kb)
Python scripts used for determining the intron/exon borders and for visualizing the multiple sequence alignments. The individual scripts and workflows are explained in the readme file 8 (ZIP 17 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mathias Bockwoldt
    • 1
  • Ines Heiland
    • 1
  • Karsten Fischer
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Arctic and Marine BiologyUiT The Arctic University of Norway, BiologibyggetTromsøNorway

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