Kingdom Chromista and its eight phyla: a new synthesis emphasising periplastid protein targeting, cytoskeletal and periplastid evolution, and ancient divergences

Protoplasma. 2018 Jan;255(1):297-357. doi: 10.1007/s00709-017-1147-3. Epub 2017 Sep 5.


In 1981 I established kingdom Chromista, distinguished from Plantae because of its more complex chloroplast-associated membrane topology and rigid tubular multipartite ciliary hairs. Plantae originated by converting a cyanobacterium to chloroplasts with Toc/Tic translocons; most evolved cell walls early, thereby losing phagotrophy. Chromists originated by enslaving a phagocytosed red alga, surrounding plastids by two extra membranes, placing them within the endomembrane system, necessitating novel protein import machineries. Early chromists retained phagotrophy, remaining naked and repeatedly reverted to heterotrophy by losing chloroplasts. Therefore, Chromista include secondary phagoheterotrophs (notably ciliates, many dinoflagellates, Opalozoa, Rhizaria, heliozoans) or walled osmotrophs (Pseudofungi, Labyrinthulea), formerly considered protozoa or fungi respectively, plus endoparasites (e.g. Sporozoa) and all chromophyte algae (other dinoflagellates, chromeroids, ochrophytes, haptophytes, cryptophytes). I discuss their origin, evolutionary diversification, and reasons for making chromists one kingdom despite highly divergent cytoskeletons and trophic modes, including improved explanations for periplastid/chloroplast protein targeting, derlin evolution, and ciliary/cytoskeletal diversification. I conjecture that transit-peptide-receptor-mediated 'endocytosis' from periplastid membranes generates periplastid vesicles that fuse with the arguably derlin-translocon-containing periplastid reticulum (putative red algal trans-Golgi network homologue; present in all chromophytes except dinoflagellates). I explain chromist origin from ancestral corticates and neokaryotes, reappraising tertiary symbiogenesis; a chromist cytoskeletal synapomorphy, a bypassing microtubule band dextral to both centrioles, favoured multiple axopodial origins. I revise chromist higher classification by transferring rhizarian subphylum Endomyxa from Cercozoa to Retaria; establishing retarian subphylum Ectoreta for Foraminifera plus Radiozoa, apicomonad subclasses, new dinozoan classes Myzodinea (grouping Colpovora gen. n., Psammosa), Endodinea, Sulcodinea, and subclass Karlodinia; and ranking heterokont Gyrista as phylum not superphylum.

Keywords: Chloroplast protein targeting; Chromist evolution; Chromist periplastid membrane; Chromist periplastid reticulum; Microtubular centriolar roots; Sporozoan conoid origin.

MeSH terms

  • Cytoskeleton / chemistry*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Phylogeny*
  • Plastids / chemistry*