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J Mol Biol. 2006 Apr 14;357(5):1373-82. Epub 2006 Feb 9.

A tertiary plastid uses genes from two endosymbionts.

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Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Department of Botany, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada V6T 1Z4.


The origin and subsequent spread of plastids by endosymbiosis had a major environmental impact and altered the course of a great proportion of eukaryotic biodiversity. The ancestor of dinoflagellates contained a secondary plastid that was acquired in an ancient endosymbiotic event, where a eukaryotic cell engulfed a red alga. This is known as secondary endosymbiosis and has happened several times in eukaryotic evolution. Certain dinoflagellates, however, are unique in having replaced this secondary plastid in an additional (tertiary) round of endosymbiosis. Most plastid proteins are encoded in the nucleus of the host and are targeted to the organelle. When secondary or tertiary endosymbiosis takes place, it is thought that these genes move from nucleus to nucleus, so the plastid retains the same proteome. We have conducted large-scale expressed sequence tag (EST) surveys from Karlodinium micrum, a dinoflagellate with a tertiary haptophyte-derived plastid, and two haptophytes, Isochrysis galbana and Pavlova lutheri. We have identified all plastid-targeted proteins, analysed the phylogenetic origin of each protein, and compared their plastid-targeting transit peptides. Many plastid-targeted genes in the Karlodinium nucleus are indeed of haptophyte origin, but some genes were also retained from the original plastid (showing the two plastids likely co-existed in the same cell), in other cases multiple isoforms of different origins exist. We analysed plastid-targeting sequences and found the transit peptides in K.micrum are different from those found in either dinoflagellates or haptophytes, pointing to a plastid with an evolutionarily chimeric proteome, and a massive remodelling of protein trafficking during plastid replacement.

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