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Protist. 2007 Jan;158(1):119-30. Epub 2006 Nov 22.

The expression of a plant-type ferredoxin redox system provides molecular evidence for a plastid in the early dinoflagellate Perkinsus marinus.

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  • 1FB Biologie/Parasitologie, Philipps-Universit├Ąt Marburg, 35032 Marburg, Germany.


Perkinsus marinus is a parasitic protozoan with a phylogenetic positioning between Apicomplexa and dinoflagellates. It is thus of interest for reconstructing the early evolution of eukaryotes, especially with regard to the acquisition of secondary plastids in these organisms. It is also an important pathogen of oysters, and the definition of parasite-specific metabolic pathways would be beneficial for the identification of efficient treatments for infected mollusks. Although these different scientific interests have resulted in the start of a genome project for this organism, it is still unknown whether P. marinus contains a plastid or plastid-like organelle like the related dinoflagellates and Apicomplexa. Here, we show that in vitro-cultivated parasites contain transcripts of the plant-type ferredoxin and its associated reductase. Both proteins are nuclear-encoded and possess N-terminal targeting sequences similar to those characterized in dinoflagellates. Since this redox pair is exclusively found in cyanobacteria and plastid-harboring organisms its presence also in P. marinus is highly indicative of a plastid. We also provide additional evidence for such an organelle by demonstrating pharmacological sensitivity to inhibitors of plastid-localized enzymes involved in fatty acid biosynthesis (e.g. acetyl-CoA carboxylase) and by detection of genes for three enzymes of plastid-localized isoprenoid biosynthesis (1-deoxy-D-xylulose 5-phosphate reductoisomerase, (E)-4-hydroxy-3-methyl-but-2-enyl diphosphate reductase, and (E)-4-hydroxy-3-methyl-but-2-enyl diphosphate synthase).

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