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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2006 Jun 29;361(1470):1055-67.

Multiple secondary origins of the anaerobic lifestyle in eukaryotes.

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The Devonshire Building, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Division of Biology, NE1 7RU, UK.


Classical ideas for early eukaryotic evolution often posited a period of anaerobic evolution producing a nucleated phagocytic cell to engulf the mitochondrial endosymbiont, whose presence allowed the host to colonize emerging aerobic environments. This idea was given credence by the existence of contemporary anaerobic eukaryotes that were thought to primitively lack mitochondria, thus providing examples of the type of host cell needed. However, the groups key to this hypothesis have now been shown to contain previously overlooked mitochondrial homologues called hydrogenosomes or mitosomes; organelles that share common ancestry with mitochondria but which do not carry out aerobic respiration. Mapping these data on the unfolding eukaryotic tree reveals that secondary adaptation to anaerobic habitats is a reoccurring theme among eukaryotes. The apparent ubiquity of mitochondrial homologues bears testament to the importance of the mitochondrial endosymbiosis, perhaps as a founding event, in eukaryotic evolution. Comparative study of different mitochondrial homologues is needed to determine their fundamental importance for contemporary eukaryotic cells.

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