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Trends Microbiol. 2005 Oct;13(10):457-9.

The missing link between hydrogenosomes and mitochondria.

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Institut für Botanik III, Heinrich-Heine Universität Düsseldorf, Universitätsstrasse 1, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany.


Mitochondria typically respire oxygen and possess a small DNA genome. But among various groups of oxygen-shunning eukaryotes, typical mitochondria are often lacking, organelles called hydrogenosomes being found instead. Like mitochondria, hydrogenosomes are surrounded by a double-membrane, produce ATP and sometimes even have cristae. In contrast to mitochondria, hydrogenosomes produce molecular hydrogen through fermentations, lack cytochromes and usually lack DNA. Hydrogenosomes do not fit into the conceptual mold cast by the classical endosymbiont hypothesis about the nature of mitochondria. Accordingly, ideas about their evolutionary origins have focussed on the differences between the two organelles instead of their commonalities. Are hydrogenosomes fundamentally different from mitochondria, the result of a different endosymbiosis? Or are our concepts about the mitochondrial archetype simply too narrow? A new report has uncovered DNA in the hydrogenosomes of anaerobic ciliates. The sequences show that these hydrogenosomes are, without a doubt, mitochondria in the evolutionary sense, even though they differ from typical mitochondria in various biochemical properties. The new findings are a benchmark for our understanding of hydrogenosome origins.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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