Recent results from ancestral (minimally derived) protists testify to the tremendous diversity of the mitochondrial genome in various eukaryotic lineages, but also reinforce the view that mitochondria, descendants of an endosymbiotic α-Proteobacterium, arose only once in evolution. The serial endosymbiosis theory, currently the most popular hypothesis to explain the origin of mitochondria, postulates the capture of an α-proteobacterial endosymbiont by a nucleus-containing eukaryotic host resembling extant amitochondriate protists. New sequence data have challenged this scenario, instead raising the possibility that the origin of the mitochondrion was coincident with, and contributed substantially to, the origin of the nuclear genome of the eukaryotic cell. Defining more precisely the α-proteobacterial ancestry of the mitochondrial genome, and the contribution of the endosymbiotic event to the nuclear genome, will be essential for a full understanding of the origin and evolution of the eukaryotic cell as a whole.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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