Hydrogenosomes and mitosomes: conservation and evolution of functions

J Eukaryot Microbiol. 2009 May-Jun;56(3):221-31. doi: 10.1111/j.1550-7408.2009.00407.x.


The field studying unusual mitochondria in microbial eukaryotes has come full circle. Some 10-15 years ago it had the evangelical task of informing the wider scientific community that not all eukaryotes had mitochondria. Advances in the field indicated that although some protists might not have mitochondria, the presence of genes of mitochondrial ancestry suggested their lineage once had. The subsequent discovery of mitochondrial compartments in all supposedly amitochondriate protists studied so far indicates that all eukaryotes do have mitochondria indeed. This assertion has fuelled novel eukaryotic origin theories and weakened others. But what do we know about these unusual mitochondria from anaerobic protists? Have they all converged onto similar roles? Iron-sulphur cluster assembly is often hailed as the unifying feature of these organelles. However, the iron-sulphur protein that is so important that a complete organelle is being maintained has not been identified. Is it to be expected that all unusual mitochondria perform the same physiological role? These organelles have been found in numerous protists occupying different ecological niches. Different selection pressures operate on different organisms so there is no reason to suspect that their mitochondria should all be the same.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Eukaryota / chemistry
  • Eukaryota / genetics
  • Eukaryota / physiology*
  • Eukaryota / ultrastructure
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways
  • Mitochondria / chemistry
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • Mitochondria / physiology*
  • Mitochondria / ultrastructure
  • Models, Biological
  • Protozoan Proteins / analysis


  • Protozoan Proteins