Dr. Robert W. Lee

BSc & MA (University of Massachussetts)
PhD (Stony Brook University)

  • Research
  • Students' Research Topics
  • Graduates' occupations
  • Publications
  • Links   
  • Lab Website
  • Research
    Evolution of organelle genetic systems in green algae.

    Polytomella: a nonphotosynthetic green algal genus with a plastid but no plastid genome.

    Following retirement in  June 2007 from my Professor position in the Department of Biology, I have been appointed Adjunct (Faculty of Graduate Studies) for the period July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2017, which has enabled me to maintain research work and supervise students.

    My research is focused on the colorless nonphotosynthetic green algal genus Polytomella. These unicellular algae are closely related to the green alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, which is an important model system for studying cell biology, genetics and photosynthesis. I am interested in all aspects of Polytomella biology but especially its evolution, physiology and biogeography. We have recently reported evidence that the Polytomella plastid has lost its genome (Smith & Lee 2014) and we are interested in learning why this rare situation occurred.

    Examples of Recent Students' Research Topics
    Bob Lee's Lab Group in 2006

    Recent Honours BSc Students

    • Melanie Mayhew-Hammond -2014 -  Biogeographical investigations of a non-photosynthetic alga, Polytomella; a bioinformatics approach
    • Eric Keeping -2013-  Cell density threshold requirement for growth in the unicellular green algal species Polytomella magna 
    • Kabir Bhanot -2009-  Attempts to achieve nuclear transformation in Polytomella parva
    • Ryan Holloway-2008-Starch degradation in the colorless alga Polytomella under starvation conditions.
    • Sean Farmer -2007- Nucleotide diversity in the mitochondrial and nuclear genomes of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii
    • Paul Chafe - 2006 - Mitochondrial DNA conformation in Volvox carteri
    • Erin K. Redmond - 2005- Conformation and partial sequence analysis of the mitochondrial genome in Chlamydomonas culleus and Chlamydomonas segnis.
    • Martin A. Mallet - 2005 - Mitochondrial genome diversity in the Polytomella genus.

    Recent Graduate Students

    • David  R. Smith, Ph.D., 2010: The evolution of genome architecture.
    • Cristina E. Popescu, Ph.D., 2006: Comparative nucleotide substitution rates of mitochondrial and nuclear genes in Chlamydomonas.
    • Jinshui Fan, Ph.D., 2002: Characterization of the mitochondrial genome and ribosomal RNAs of the colorless green alga Polytomella parva
    • Mark LaFlamme, Ph.D., 2002: Mitochondrial DNA conformation and cytochrome respiration-related functions among the CW group algae.
    • Pamela Jarman, M.Sc., 2001: Studies on the levels of synonymous substitution in mitochondrial genes in chlorophycean green algae.
    Some Recent Graduates' Occupations
    • Biology Professor
    • Physician
    • Research Scientist for Fisheries and Oceans Canada
    • Clinical Research Associate
    • Forensic Scientist
    • Physiotherapist
    • Law  
    • RCMP Officer
    • Training Specialist
    Selected Publications

    Smith, D.R., Lee, R.W. (2014) A plastid without a genome: evidence from the nonphotosynthetic green algal genus Polytomella. Plant Physiol. 164:1812-1819. This paper was highlighted by different news media, including Science, The Scientist, and Nature Reviews Genetics.

     Lee, R.W. and Hua, J. (2014) Mitochondrial Genomes of Green, Red and Glaucophyte Algae. In: Bell E., Bond J., Klinman J., Masters B., Wells R. (Ed.) Molecular Life Sciences: An Encyclopedic Reference: SpringerReference (www.springerreference.com). Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.          Reference no. 333645    232/232

    Smith, D.R., Hua, J., Archibald, J.M., Lee, R.W. (2013) Palindromic genes in the linear mitochondrial genome of the nonphotosynthetic green alga Polytomella magna. Genome Biol. Evol. 5:1661–1667.

    Smith, D. R., Hua, J., Lee, R.W., and Keeling, P.J. (2012) Relative rates of evolution among the three genetic compartments of the red alga Porphyra differ from those of green plants and do not correlate with genome architecture. Molec. Phylogenet. Evol. 65:339-344.

    Hua, J. and Lee, R.W. (2012) Factors affecting codon bias in the mitochondrial genomes of the streptophyte Mesostigma viride and the chlorophyte Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. J. Euk. Microbiol.59: 287-289.

    Hua, J., Smith, D.R., Borza T., and Lee R.W. (2012) Similar relative mutation rates in the three genetic compartments of Mesostigma and Chlamydomonas. Protist 163:105-115

    Smith, D.R. and Lee, R.W. (2011) Nucleotide diversity of the colorless green alga Polytomella parva (Chlorophyceae, Chlorophyta): high for the mitochondrial telomeres, surprisingly low everywhere else. J. Euk. Microbiol. 58:471-473. 

    Smith D.R., Crosby, K., and Lee, RW (2011) Plastids and gene transfer: Correlation between nuclear plastid DNA abundance and plastid number supports the limited transfer window hypothesis. Genome Biol. Evol. 3: 365-371. (A commentary by Nick Lane Genome Biol Evol. 2011; 3:372-374 accompanies this article.)

    Smith D.R., Hua, J. and Lee, R.W. (2010) Evolution of linear mitochondrial DNA in three known lineages of Polytomella. Curr. Genet.56:427-438. Pub Med Link http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20574726.

    Smith, D.R. and Lee, R.W. (2010) Low nucleotide diversity for the expanded organelle and nuclear genomes of Volvox carteri supports the mutational-hazard hypothesis. Mol. Biol. Evol. 27:2244-2256. [PubMed]

    Smith, D.R., Lee, R.W., Cushman, J.C., Magnuson, J.K., Tran, D., and Polle J.E.W. (2010) The Dunaliella salina organelle genomes: large sequences, inflated with intronic and intergenic DNA. BMC Plant Biol. 10:83. [PubMed]

    Smith D.R. (2009) Unparalleled GC content in the plastid DNA of Selaginella. Plant Mol. Biol. 71:627-639. This work was conducted in the laboratory of R.W. Lee and supported by his NSERC grant. [PubMed]

    Borza,T., Redmond, E.K., Laflamme, M. and Lee, R.W. (2009) Mitochondrial DNA in the Oogamochlamys-clade (Chlorophyceae): high GC content and unique genome architecture for green algae. J. Phycol. 45:1323-1334. Link

    Smith, D.R. and Lee, R.W. (2009) Nucleotide diversity of the Chlamydomonas reinhardtii plastid genome: addressing the mutational-hazard hypothesis. BMC Evol. Biology 9:120. [PubMed]

    Smith, D.R. and Lee, R.W. (2009) The mitochondrial and plastid genomes of Volvox carteri: bloated molecules rich in repetitive DNA. BMC Genomics 10:132. [PubMed]

    Smith, D.R. and Lee, R.W. (2008) Nucleotide diversity in the mitochondrial and nuclear compartments of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii: investigating the origins of genome architecture. BMC Evol. Biology 8:156.[PubMed]

    Smith, D.R. and Lee, R.W. (2008) Mitochondrial Genome of the Colorless Green Alga Polytomella capuana: a Linear Molecule with an Unprecedented GC Content. Mol. Biol. Evol. 25: 487-496. [PubMed]

    Koziol, A.G., Borza, T., Ishida, K.-I., Keeling, P., Lee, R.W. and D.G. Durnford (2007) Tracing the evolution of the light-harvesting antennae in chlorophyll a/b-containing organisms. Plant Physiology 143:1-15. [PubMed]


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