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Zoology (Jena). 2001;104(3-4):290-302.

Hydrogenosomes: convergent adaptations of mitochondria to anaerobic environments.

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Dept. Evolutionary Microbiology, Fac. Science, University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Hydrogenosomes are membrane-bound organelles that compartmentalise the final steps of energy metabolism in a number of anaerobic eukaryotes. They produce hydrogen and ATP. Here we will review the data, which are relevant for the questions: how did the hydrogenosomes originate, and what was their ancestor? Notably, there is strong evidence that hydrogenosomes evolved several times as adaptations to anaerobic environments. Most likely, hydrogenosomes and mitochondria share a common ancestor, but an unequivocal proof for this hypothesis is difficult because hydrogenosomes lack an organelle genome - with one remarkable exception (Nyctotherus ovalis). In particular, the diversity of extant hydrogenosomes hampers a straightforward analysis of their origins. Nevertheless, it is conceivable to postulate that the common ancestor of mitochondria and hydrogenosomes was a facultative anaerobic organelle that participated in the early radiation of unicellular eukaryotes. Consequently, it is reasonable to assume that both, hydrogenosomes and mitochondria are evolutionary adaptations to anaerobic or aerobic environments, respectively.


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