23
$\begingroup$

According to the endosymbiont theory, mitochondria and chloroplasts originated as bacteria which were engulfed by larger cells. How many times is it estimated that this occurred in the past? Are there any examples of this process being observed directly?

$\endgroup$
2
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ What do you mean "how many"? Do you mean how many time it should have happened before mitochondria became our endosymbionts? This question doesn't make any sense for me... $\endgroup$ Dec 14, 2011 at 22:23
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I think this is a good question. Was it a unique or rare event, or an inevitable consequence of bacterial colonies cooperating? This is a fundamental issue in the development of multicellular life. $\endgroup$
    – Poshpaws
    Dec 15, 2011 at 10:34

4 Answers 4

16
$\begingroup$

Well, it seems quite obvious that it was not a single I-eat-you-but-you-survived act but rather a convergence of endosymbiotic and host species into a greater and greater cooperation. Of course this leaves a question if there was one or more species of endosymbionts involved.

Mitochondria are a very primeval story forced by the oxygen catastrophe, so it is hard to say, although great majority of mitochondria seems to have a single origin.

Plastids are much more divergent, however it seems that they did originated from a single source, diverged into chloroplasts, cyanelles and rhodoplasts and were later mixed up by numerous acts of secondary and even tertiary endosymbiosis (plus a further evolution); this variety can be especially seen within Euglenas, and they are the main group investigated in this manner.

$\endgroup$
3
  • $\begingroup$ what is the story of oxygen catastrophe which put some force upon mitochondria? $\endgroup$
    – Vass
    Jan 25, 2012 at 11:46
  • $\begingroup$ Long and speculative -- in short, aerobic bacteria are postulated to be ingested by larger, anaerobic ones which required something to reduce oxygen level inside its cells. I think you should ask a new question about it. $\endgroup$
    – user59
    Jan 25, 2012 at 12:28
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Vass: you might look at amazon.com/Oxygen-Molecule-World-Popular-Science/dp/0198607830/… It is fairly tough going for a popular science book, but is about how life learned to live with and use oxygen $\endgroup$ May 7, 2012 at 14:11
16
$\begingroup$

I think @mbq has covered the frequency question better than I can.

There is at least one modern example of this kind of new organelle formation. Aphids have a deep, intracellular endosymbiont Buchnera involving some genome transfer that has developed in the last 200 million years.

There are many articles about this topic (eg: Nature from 2000), and it was a little controversial 15 years ago. Now, it's largely accepted that this is a modern development of endosymbiosis, and a confirmation of the theory.

$\endgroup$
2
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Thomas Ingalis, with the example of Buchnera, why does a intracellular endosymbiont involve genome transfer? What is that referring to exactly? $\endgroup$
    – Vass
    Jan 25, 2012 at 11:49
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Vass, to be correct, I should say functional redundancy. Nikoh et al published an analysis in 2010 screening a complete aphid genome for transfered genes. From the abstract: "Our results excluded the hypothesis that genome reduction in Buchnera has been accompanied by gene transfer to the host nuclear genome, but suggest that aphids utilize a set of duplicated genes acquired from other bacteria in the context of the Buchnera–aphid mutualism." This redundancy can be construed as a step to organelle formation. $\endgroup$ Jan 25, 2012 at 15:29
6
$\begingroup$

It depends of what you call endosymbiosis. In the sense of mutualistic interaction between host cell and intracellular organism, it also include Rhizobium bacteria and Fabaceae plants, some Cnidaria and algea in their cells, and even some micorrhizal fungi that invade into plants cells. But parasitic interactions are also sometimes call symbiosis, as symbiosis means just “living together” and the balance between profits and costs for each partner are sometimes difficult to measure and even changes in time. So in this wider meaning even Trichinella worm that live in mammal cell is an endosymbiont and endosymbiosis is very common.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

There are evidences of secondary endosymbiosis i.e. organelle within an organelle. This is quite evident in Chromaveolates. Many unicellular Chromaveolates which had been classically referred to as unicellular Algae, have chloroplasts derived from other algae. This organelle in turn has a membrane bound suborganelle. For a quick reference you may see this article. Euglena and diatoms are some famous examples of this phenomenon.

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.