The conversion of free-living cyanobacteria to photosynthetic organelles of eukaryotic cells through endosymbiosis transformed the biosphere and eventually provided the basis for life on land. Despite the presumable advantage conferred by the acquisition of photoautotrophy through endosymbiosis, only two independent cases of primary endosymbiosis have been documented: one that gave rise to the Archaeplastida, and the other to photosynthetic species of the thecate, filose amoeba Paulinella. Here, we review recent genomics-informed insights into the primary endosymbiotic origins of cyanobacteria-derived organelles. Furthermore, we discuss the preconditions for the evolution of nitrogen-fixing organelles. Recent genomic data on previously undersampled cyanobacterial and protist taxa provide new clues to the origins of the host cell and endosymbiont, and proteomic approaches allow insights into the rearrangement of the endosymbiont proteome during organellogenesis. We conclude that in addition to endosymbiotic gene transfers, horizontal gene acquisitions from a broad variety of prokaryotic taxa were crucial to organelle evolution.
Keywords: N2 fixation; Paulinella; endosymbiont; gene transfer; organellogenesis; plastid.