Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from Biology Direct and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Comment

Endosymbiont or host: who drove mitochondrial and plastid evolution?

Jeferson Gross and Debashish Bhattacharya*

Author Affiliations

Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources, and Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Foran Hall 102, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

Biology Direct 2011, 6:12  doi:10.1186/1745-6150-6-12

Published: 19 February 2011


The recognition that mitochondria and plastids are derived from alphaproteobacterial and cyanobacterial endosymbionts, respectively, was one of the greatest advances in modern evolutionary biology. Researchers have yet however to provide detailed cell biological descriptions of how these once free-living prokaryotes were transformed into intracellular organelles. A key area of study in this realm is elucidating the evolution of the molecular machines that control organelle protein topogenesis. Alcock et al. (Science 2010, 327 [5966]:649-650) suggest that evolutionary innovations that established the mitochondrial protein sorting system were driven by the alphaproteobacterial endosymbiont (an "insiders' perspective"). In contrast, here we argue that evolution of mitochondrial and plastid topogenesis may better be understood as an outcome of selective pressures acting on host cell chromosomes (the "outsiders' view").


This manuscript was reviewed by Gáspár Jékely, Martijn Huynen, and Purificación López-García.