Malaria and related parasites retain a vestigial, but biosynthetically active, plastid organelle acquired far back in evolution from a red algal cell. The organelle appears to be essential for parasite transmission from cell to cell and carries the smallest known plastid genome. Why has this genome been retained? The genes it carries seem to be dedicated to the expression of just two ‘housekeeping’ genes. We speculate that one of these, called ycf24 in plants and sufB in bacteria, is tied to an essential ‘dark’ reaction of the organelle – fatty acid biosynthesis. ‘Ball–park’ clues to the function of bacterial suf genes have emerged only recently and point to the areas of iron homeostasis, [Fe–S] cluster formation and oxidative stress. We present experimental evidence for a physical interaction between SufB and its putative partner SufC (ycf16). In both malaria and plants, SufC is encoded in the nucleus and specifies an ATPase that is imported into the plastid.