Planctomycetes form a distinct phylum of the domain Bacteria and possess unusual features such as intracellular compartmentalization and a lack of peptidoglycan in their cell walls. Remarkably, cells of the genus Gemmata even contain a membrane-bound nucleoid analogous to the eukaryotic nucleus. Moreover, the so-called 'anammox' planctomycetes have a unique anaerobic, autotrophic metabolism that includes the ability to oxidize ammonium; this process is dependent on a characteristic membrane-bound cell compartment called the anammoxosome, which might be a functional analogue of the eukaryotic mitochondrion. The compartmentalization of planctomycetes challenges our hypotheses regarding the origins of eukaryotic organelles. Furthermore, the recent discovery of both an endocytosis-like ability and proteins homologous to eukaryotic clathrin in a planctomycete marks this phylum as one to watch for future research on the origin and evolution of the eukaryotic cell.