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Nat Rev Genet. 2007 May;8(5):395-403. doi: 10.1038/nrg2071. Epub 2007 Apr 12.

The origin of eukaryotes: a reappraisal.

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Christian de Duve Institute of Cellular Pathology (ICP), 75 Avenue Hippocrate, B-1200 Brussels, Belgium.


Ever since the elucidation of the main structural and functional features of eukaryotic cells and subsequent discovery of the endosymbiotic origin of mitochondria and plastids, two opposing hypotheses have been proposed to account for the origin of eukaryotic cells. One hypothesis postulates that the main features of these cells, including their ability to capture food by endocytosis and to digest it intracellularly, were developed first, and later had a key role in the adoption of endosymbionts; the other proposes that the transformation was triggered by an interaction between two typical prokaryotic cells, one of which became the host and the other the endosymbiont. Re-examination of this question in the light of cell-biological and phylogenetic data leads to the conclusion that the first model is more likely to be the correct one.

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