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J Eukaryot Microbiol. 2007 Jan-Feb;54(1):66-72.

Gregarina niphandrodes may lack both a plastid genome and organelle.

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School of Biological Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington 99164-4236, USA.


Gregarines are early diverging apicomplexans that appear to be closely related to Cryptosporidium. Most apicomplexans, including Plasmodium, Toxoplasma, and Eimeria, possess both plastids and corresponding plastid genomes. Cryptosporidium lacks both the organelle and the genome. To investigate the evolutionary history of plastids in the Apicomplexa, we tried to determine whether gregarines possess a plastid and/or its genome. We used PCR and dot-blot hybridization to determine whether the gregarine Gregarina niphandrodes possesses a plastid genome. We used an inhibitor of plastid function for any reduction in gregarine infection, and transmission electron microscopy to search for plastid ultrastructure. Despite an extensive search, an organelle of the appropriate ultrastructure in transmission electron microscopy, was not observed. Triclosan, an inhibitor of the plastid-specific enoyl-acyl carrier reductase enzyme, did not reduce host infection by G. niphandrodes. Plastid-specific primers produced amplicons with the DNA of Babesia equi, Plasmodium falciparum, and Toxoplasma gondii as templates, but not with G. niphandrodes DNA. Plastid-specific DNA probes, which hybridized to Babesia equi, failed to hybridize to G. niphandrodes DNA. This evidence indicates that G. niphandrodes is not likely to possess either a plastid organelle or its genome. This raises the possibility that the plastid was lost in the Apicomplexan following the divergence of gregarines and Cryptosporidium.

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