Core proteins of mitochondrial protein import are found in all mitochondria, suggesting a common origin of this import machinery. Despite the presence of a universal core import mechanism, there are specific proteins found only in a few groups of organisms. One of these proteins is the translocase of outer membrane 70 (Tom70), a protein that is essential for the import of preproteins with internal targeting sequences into the mitochondrion. Until now, Tom70 has only been found in animals and Fungi. We have identified a tom70 gene in the human parasitic anaerobic stramenopile Blastocystis sp. that is neither an animal nor a fungus. Using a combination of bioinformatics, genetic complementation, and immunofluorescence microscopy analyses, we demonstrate that this protein functions as a typical Tom70 in Blastocystis mitochondrion-related organelles. Additionally, we identified putative tom70 genes in the genomes of other stramenopiles and a haptophyte, that, in phylogenies, form a monophyletic group distinct from the animal and the fungal homologues. The presence of Tom70 in these lineages significantly expands the evolutionary spectrum of eukaryotes that contain this protein and suggests that it may have been part of the core mitochondrial protein import apparatus of the last common ancestral eukaryote.
According to the chromalveolate hypothesis (Cavalier-Smith T. 1999. Principles of protein and lipid targeting in secondary symbiogenesis: euglenoid, dinoflagellate, and sporozoan plastid origins and the eukaryote family tree. J Eukaryot Microbiol 46:347-366), the four eukaryotic groups with chlorophyll c-containing plastids originate from a single photosynthetic ancestor, which acquired its plastids by secondary endosymbiosis with a red alga. So far, molecular phylogenies have failed to either support or disprove this view. Here, we devise a phylogenomic falsification of the chromalveolate hypothesis that estimates signal strength across the three genomic compartments: If the four chlorophyll c-containing lineages indeed derive from a single photosynthetic ancestor, then similar amounts of plastid, mitochondrial, and nuclear sequences should allow to recover their monophyly. Our results refute this prediction, with statistical support levels too different to be explained by evolutionary rate variation, phylogenetic artifacts, or endosymbiotic gene transfer. Therefore, we reject the chromalveolate hypothesis as falsified in favor of more complex evolutionary scenarios involving multiple higher order eukaryote-eukaryote endosymbioses.
Protists that live in low oxygen conditions often oxidize pyruvate to acetate via anaerobic ATP-generating pathways. Key enzymes that commonly occur in these pathways are pyruvate:ferredoxin oxidoreductase (PFO) and [FeFe]-hydrogenase (H(2)ase) as well as the associated [FeFe]-H(2)ase maturase proteins HydE, HydF, and HydG. Determining the origins of these proteins in eukaryotes is of key importance to understanding the origins of anaerobic energy metabolism in microbial eukaryotes. We conducted a comprehensive search for genes encoding these proteins in available whole genomes and expressed sequence tag data from diverse eukaryotes. Our analyses of the presence/absence of eukaryotic PFO, [FeFe]-H(2)ase, and H(2)ase maturase sequences across eukaryotic diversity reveal orthologs of these proteins encoded in the genomes of a variety of protists previously not known to contain them. Our phylogenetic analyses revealed: 1) extensive lateral gene transfers of both PFO and [FeFe]-H(2)ase in eubacteria, 2) decreased support for the monophyly of eukaryote PFO domains, and 3) that eukaryotic [FeFe]-H(2)ases are not monophyletic. Although there are few eukaryote [FeFe]-H(2)ase maturase orthologs characterized, phylogenies of these proteins do recover eukaryote monophyly, although a consistent eubacterial sister group for eukaryotic homologs could not be determined. An exhaustive search for these five genes in diverse genomes from two representative eubacterial groups, the Clostridiales and the alpha-proteobacteria, shows that although these enzymes are nearly universally present within the former group, they are very rare in the latter. No alpha-proteobacterial genome sequenced to date encodes all five proteins. Molecular phylogenies and the extremely restricted distribution of PFO, [FeFe]-H(2)ases, and their associated maturases within the alpha-proteobacteria do not support a mitochondrial origin for these enzymes in eukaryotes. However, the unexpected prevalence of PFO, pyruvate:NADP oxidoreductase, [FeFe]-H(2)ase, and the maturase proteins encoded in genomes of diverse eukaryotes indicates that these enzymes have an important role in the evolution of microbial eukaryote energy metabolism.
Iron/sulfur cluster (ISC)-containing proteins are essential components of cells. In most eukaryotes, Fe/S clusters are synthesized by the mitochondrial ISC machinery, the cytosolic iron/sulfur assembly system, and, in photosynthetic species, a plastid sulfur-mobilization (SUF) system. Here we show that the anaerobic human protozoan parasite Blastocystis, in addition to possessing ISC and iron/sulfur assembly systems, expresses a fused version of the SufC and SufB proteins of prokaryotes that it has acquired by lateral transfer from an archaeon related to the Methanomicrobiales, an important lineage represented in the human gastrointestinal tract microbiome. Although components of the Blastocystis ISC system function within its anaerobic mitochondrion-related organelles and can functionally replace homologues in Trypanosoma brucei, its SufCB protein has similar biochemical properties to its prokaryotic homologues, functions within the parasites cytosol, and is up-regulated under oxygen stress. Blastocystis is unique among eukaryotic pathogens in having adapted to its parasitic lifestyle by acquiring a SUF system from nonpathogenic Archaea to synthesize Fe/S clusters under oxygen stress.
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