Francois Bucchini

PhD student


  1. Del Cortona, A., Jackson, C. J., Bucchini, F., Van Bel, M., D’hondt, S., Škaloud, P., … Leliaert, F. (2020). Neoproterozoic origin and multiple transitions to macroscopic growth in green seaweeds. PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 117(5), 2551–2559.
    The Neoproterozoic Era records the transition from a largely bacterial to a predominantly eukaryotic phototrophic world, creating the foundation for the complex benthic ecosystems that have sustained Metazoa from the Ediacaran Period onward. This study focuses on the evolutionary origins of green seaweeds, which play an important ecological role in the benthos of modern sunlit oceans and likely played a crucial part in the evolution of early animals by structuring benthic habitats and providing novel niches. By applying a phylogenomic approach, we resolve deep relationships of the core Chlorophyta (Ulvophyceae or green seaweeds, and freshwater or terrestrial Chlorophyceae and Trebouxiophyceae) and unveil a rapid radiation of Chlorophyceae and the principal lineages of the Ulvophyceae late in the Neoproterozoic Era. Our time-calibrated tree points to an origin and early diversification of green seaweeds in the late Tonian and Cryogenian periods, an interval marked by two global glaciations with strong consequent changes in the amount of available marine benthic habitat. We hypothesize that unicellular and simple multicellular ancestors of green seaweeds survived these extreme climate events in isolated refugia, and diversified in benthic environments that became increasingly available as ice retreated. An increased supply of nutrients and biotic interactions, such as grazing pressure, likely triggered the independent evolution of macroscopic growth via different strategies, including true multicellularity, and multiple types of giant-celled forms.
  2. Van Bel, M., Bucchini, F., & Vandepoele, K. (2019). Gene space completeness in complex plant genomes. CURRENT OPINION IN PLANT BIOLOGY, 48, 9–17.
    Genome annotations offer ample opportunities to study gene functions, biochemical and regulatory pathways, or quantitative trait loci in plants. Determining the quality and completeness of a genome annotation, and maintaining the balance between them, are major challenges, even for genomes of well-studied model organisms. In this review, we present a historical overview of the complexity in different plant genomes and discuss the hurdles and possible solutions in obtaining a complete and high-quality genome annotation. We illustrate there is no clear-cut answer to solve these challenges for different gene types, but provide tips on guiding the iterative process of generating a superior genome annotation, which is a moving target as our knowledge about plant genomics increases and additional data sources become available.
  3. Krasovec, M., Vancaester, E., Rombauts, S., Bucchini, F., Yau, S., Hemon, C., Lebredonchel, H., et al. (2018). Genome analyses of the microalga Picochlorum provide insights into the evolution of thermotolerance in the green lineage. GENOME BIOLOGY AND EVOLUTION, 10(9), 2347–2365.
    While the molecular events involved in cell responses to heat stress have been extensively studied, our understanding of the genetic basis of basal thermotolerance, and particularly its evolution within the green lineage, remains limited. Here, we present the 13.3-Mb haploid genome and transcriptomes of a halotolerant and thermotolerant unicellular green alga, Picochlorum costavermella (Trebouxiophyceae) to investigate the evolution of the genomic basis of thermotolerance. Differential gene expression at high and standard temperatures revealed that more of the gene families containing up-regulated genes at high temperature were recently evolved, and less originated at the ancestor of green plants. Inversely, there was an excess of ancient gene families containing transcriptionally repressed genes. Interestingly, there is a striking overlap between the thermotolerance and halotolerance transcriptional rewiring, as more than one-third of the gene families up-regulated at 35 degrees C were also up-regulated under variable salt concentrations in Picochlorum SE3. Moreover, phylogenetic analysis of the 9,304 protein coding genes revealed 26 genes of horizontally transferred origin in P. costavermella, of which five were differentially expressed at higher temperature. Altogether, these results provide new insights about how the genomic basis of adaptation to halo- and thermotolerance evolved in the green lineage.