Why have organelles retained genomes?

Trends Genet. 1999 Sep;15(9):364-70. doi: 10.1016/s0168-9525(99)01766-7.


The observation that chloroplasts and mitochondria have retained relics of eubacterial genomes and a protein-synthesizing machinery has long puzzled biologists. If most genes have been transferred from organelles to the nucleus during evolution, why not all? What selective pressure maintains genomes in organelles? Electron transport through the photosynthetic and respiratory membranes is a powerful - but dangerous - source of energy. Recent evidence suggests that organelle genomes have persisted because structural proteins that maintain redox balance within bioenergetic membranes must be synthesized when and where they are needed, to counteract the potentially deadly side effects of ATP-generating electron transport.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Genome
  • Models, Biological
  • Organelles / genetics*
  • Organelles / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Plastids / genetics
  • Plastids / metabolism
  • Plastoquinone / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • Plastoquinone