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FEBS Lett. 2001 Jul 13;501(1):11-8.

Evolutionary relationship of Rickettsiae and mitochondria.

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  • 1Department of General Microbiology, Gamaleya Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, 123098, Moscow, Russia.


Phylogenetic data support an origin of mitochondria from the alpha-proteobacterial order Rickettsiales. This high-rank taxon comprises exceptionally obligate intracellular endosymbionts of eukaryotic cells, and includes family Rickettsiaceae and a group of microorganisms termed Rickettsia-like endosymbionts (RLEs). Most detailed phylogenetic analyses of small subunit rRNA and chaperonin 60 sequences consistently show the RLEs to have emerged before Rickettsiaceae and mitochondria sister clades. These data suggest that the origin of mitochondria and Rickettsiae has been preceded by the long-term mutualistic relationship of an intracellular bacterium with a pro-eukaryote, in which an invader has lost many dispensable genes, yet evolved carrier proteins to exchange respiration-derived ATP for host metabolites as envisaged in classic endosymbiont theory.

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