Did trypanosomatid parasites contain a eukaryotic alga-derived plastid in their evolutionary past?

Andrzej Bodył, Paweł Mackiewicz, Rafał Milanowski
Journal of Parasitology 2010, 96 (2): 465-75
The Trypanosomatidae is closely related to euglenids that harbor plastids acquired from a green alga via secondary endosymbiosis. This discovery led to the idea that trypanosomatid parasites contained a green alga-derived plastid in their evolutionary past, an evolutionary scenario that was criticized based on the rarity of plant/plastid/cyanobacterium-like genes in the completely sequenced genomes of Trypanosoma and Leishmania species. Because it is difficult to identify such genes, however, their apparent rarity does not preclude a previous plastid endosymbiosis in the Trypanosomatidae. The genome of the plastid-less apicomplexan Cryptosporidium parvum preserves only a handful of plant/plastid/cyanobacterium-like genes, suggesting massive loss of plastid genes after elimination of its plastid. Additional support for such wholesale gene loss comes from fucoxanthin-containing dinoflagellates. Trypanosomatid nuclear genomes contain cyanobacterium-, green plant-, and haptophyte alga-derived genes, suggesting that they could have possessed a plastid in their evolutionary past; however, these genes also could represent examples of more typical horizontal gene transfer that did not accompany a plastid endosymbiosis. Thus, the presence of host cell genes that were adapted for use in the plastid would be much stronger evidence for a past plastid endosymbiosis in the Trypanosomatidae. Good examples of such genes are those encoding superoxide dismutases (SODs). Trypanosomatid parasites possess 4 iron-containing SODs, with 2 of them, SODA and SODC, targeted to the mitochondrion. In contrast with SODAs with classical single-domain mitochondrial targeting signals, SODCs carry bipartite pre-sequences composed of a signal peptide, followed by a transit peptide. Interestingly, these N-terminal extensions show striking similarities in length, hydropathy profiles, amino acid composition, and targeting properties to pre-sequences of proteins targeted to eukaryotic alga-derived plastids of euglenids and dinoflagellates. In turn, phylogenetic analyses indicate that SODCs originated from a mitochondrion-targeted SOD via gene duplication and were inherited vertically in the trypanosomatid lineage. These data represent a new kind of evidence for a past plastid endosymbiosis in the Trypanosomatidae, but the nature of this plastid remains unclear. It is usually assumed that the trypanosomatid plastid shared a common origin with that of euglenids, but Delta 4 desaturase phylogenies suggest that it could have originated via an independent, tertiary endosymbiosis involving a haptophyte alga. It is also possible that ancestors of the Trypanosomatidae initially possessed a primary plastid that later was replaced by a secondary or tertiary plastid.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Related Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.


Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"