Bacterial genome chimaerism and the origin of mitochondria

Can J Microbiol. 2011 Jan;57(1):49-61. doi: 10.1139/w10-099.


Many studies have sought to determine the origin and evolution of mitochondria. Although the Alphaproteobacteria are thought to be the closest relatives of the mitochondrial progenitor, there is dispute as to what its particular sister group is. Some have argued that mitochondria originated from ancestors of the order Rickettsiales, or more specifically of the Rickettsiaceae family, while others believe that ancestors of the family Rhodospirillaceae are also equally likely the progenitors. To resolve some of these disputes, sequence similarity searches and phylogenetic analyses were performed against mitochondria-related proteins in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The 86 common matches of 5 Alphaproteobacteria (Rickettsia prowazekii, Rhodospirillum rubrum, Rhodopseudomonas palustris, Rhodobacter sphaeroides, and Ochrobactrum anthropi) to yeast mitochondrial proteins were distributed fairly evenly among the 5 species when sorted by highest identity or score. Moreover, exploratory phylogenetic analyses revealed that among these common matches, 44.19% (38) had branched most closely with O. anthropi, while only 34.88% (30) corresponded with Rickettsia prowazekii. More detailed phylogenetic analyses with additional Alphaproteobacteria and including genes from the mitochondria of Reclinomonas americana found matches of mitochondrial genes to those of members of the Rickettsiaceae, Anaplasmataceae, and Rhodospirillaceae families. The results support the idea that notable bacterial genome chimaerism has occurred en route to the formation of mitochondria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alphaproteobacteria / classification*
  • Alphaproteobacteria / genetics*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Eukaryota / classification
  • Eukaryota / genetics
  • Genome, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • Mitochondria / physiology*
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / genetics*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / classification
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics


  • Mitochondrial Proteins