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Biosystems. 1991;25(1-2):75-83.

The troublesome parasites--molecular and morphological evidence that Apicomplexa belong to the dinoflagellate-ciliate clade.

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Institut für Allgemeine Mikrobiologie, Christian-Albrechts-Universität Kiel, Germany.


Large insertions and deletions in the variable regions of eukaryotic 16S-like rRNA relative to the archaebacterial structure have been defined as a marker for rapidly evolving taxa. Deletions in the rRNA occur in the diplomonad Giardia and the microsporidian Vairimorpha, whereas insertions occur in Euglenozoa (Euglena and the kinetoplastids), Acanthamoeba, Naegleria, Physarum, Dictyostelium, the apicomplexan Plasmodium, the ciliate Euplotes, and some metazoa. Except Acanthamoeba and Euplotes, all of these protists were previously placed at the base of the eukaryote phylogeny. A re-analysis of the 16S-like rRNA and 5S rRNA data with the neighborliness method revealed a close relationship of Apicomplexa to the dinoflagellate-ciliate clade, most probably closer to the dinoflagellates. Morphological evidence that supports this grouping is the layer of sacs underneath the plasma membrane in all three taxa and the identical structure of trichocysts in the apicomplexan Spiromonas and dinoflagellates. The remaining rapidly evolving organisms might still be misplaced in the 16S-like rRNA trees.

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