On the origin of mitochondria: a genomics perspective

G. E. Andersson, Olof Karlberg, Björn Canbäck, Charles G. Kurland

Abstract

The availability of complete genome sequence data from both bacteria and eukaryotes provides information about the contribution of bacterial genes to the origin and evolution of mitochondria. Phylogenetic analyses based on genes located in the mitochondrial genome indicate that these genes originated from within the α–proteobacteria. A number of ancestral bacterial genes have also been transferred from the mitochondrial to the nuclear genome, as evidenced by the presence of orthologous genes in the mitochondrial genome in some species and in the nuclear genome of other species. However, a multitude of mitochondrial proteins encoded in the nucleus display no homology to bacterial proteins, indicating that these originated within the eukaryotic cell subsequent to the acquisition of the endosymbiont. An analysis of the expression patterns of yeast nuclear genes coding for mitochondrial proteins has shown that genes predicted to be of eukaryotic origin are mainly translated on polysomes that are free in the cytosol whereas those of putative bacterial origin are translated on polysomes attached to the mitochondrion. The strong relationship with α–proteobacterial genes observed for some mitochondrial genes, combined with the lack of such a relationship for others, indicates that the modern mitochondrial proteome is the product of both reductive and expansive processes.

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