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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. Jan 29, 2003; 358(1429): 87–97.
PMCID: PMC1693106

Eukaryotic genome evolution: rearrangement and coevolution of compartmentalized genetic information.


The plant cell operates with an integrated, compartmentalized genome consisting of nucleus/cytosol, plastids and mitochondria that, in its entirety, is regulated in time, quantitatively, in multicellular organisms and also in space. This genome, as do genomes of eukaryotes in general, originated in endosymbiotic events, with at least three cells, and was shaped phylogenetically by a massive and highly complex restructuring and intermixing of the genetic potentials of the symbiotic partners and by lateral gene transfer. This was accompanied by fundamental changes in expression signals in the entire system at almost all regulatory levels. The gross genome rearrangements contrast with a highly specific compartmental interplay, which becomes apparent in interspecific nuclear-plastid cybrids or hybrids. Organelle exchanges, even between closely related species, can greatly disturb the intracellular genetic balance ("hybrid bleaching"), which is indicative of compartmental coevolution and is of relevance for speciation processes. The photosynthetic machinery of plastids, which is embedded in that genetic machinery, is an appealing model to probe into genomic and organismic evolution and to develop functional molecular genomics. We have studied the reciprocal Atropa belladonna-Nicotiana tabacum cybrids, which differ markedly in their phenotypes, and found that transcriptional and post-transcriptional processes can contribute to genome/plastome incompatibility. Allopolyploidy can influence this phenomenon by providing an increased, cryptic RNA editing potential and the capacity to maintain the integrity of organelles of different taxonomic origins.

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Selected References

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